For the Cincinnati Bengals to face the New England Patriots in the Divisional Round, they have to get out of the funk — and the funk is not something that the combination of Andy Dalton and Marvin Lewis (or anyone in the Bengals organization) has accomplished to chase since the days of Boomer Esiason and Ickey Woods 23 years ago.
If the Bengals get past the San Diego Chargers Sunday afternoon, they would be set up with the short week against New England, a team they beat 13-6 in Week 6. However, the second time will not be the charm for “Who Dey,” and their playoff history has much to do with it. Something is just entwined in the Bengals DNA that makes them chokers come January and obviously, Cincinnati would have to end their 23-year drought to even get a shot at New England.
Cincinnati is arguably the most talented team in the NFL with a top-10 offense and defense, but history is history. Two years ago, the Bengals went down to the Houston Texans and faced a third-string quarterback in T.J. Yates. Still, they could not pull out the win, and last year was no different.
Give Dalton credit for improving his touchdown tallies each year (even though his interception tallies continue to grow) and credit for getting one of the worst franchises in sports to reach the playoffs in each of his first three seasons.
The problem is that Dalton’s annual improvement has yet to be translated to the postseason. In his first playoff appearance, Dalton went a respectable 27-of-42 for 257 yards, but he also threw three picks. Appearance no. 2 was worse, as he tossed a measly 127 yards on 14-of-30 passing.
Figures like that are simply unacceptable when a quarterback hits the playoffs, not to mention Dalton’s putrid road play. The Bengals, like the Patriots, went undefeated at home during the regular season, but Cincinnati went a mediocre 3-5 on the road this year. In those five 2013 losses, the TCU product combined for six touchdown passes and nine picks. Stats like that will not hold up in Foxborough, even against a battered defense like the one in New England has.