Playoffs? Cincinnati Bengals still alive, but not by much

  • Laurel Pfahler
  • Contributing Writer
12:00 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017 Journal-News Sports
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) looks for an open receiver during the second half of their 23-20 loss to the Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium, Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

The Cincinnati Bengals’ playoff hopes took a big hit as they let Monday night’s game against the Steelers slip away , but as disappointing as the loss was, there is no time to dwell.

Despite questions still centering around Pittsburgh on Wednesday when the team returned from an off day, the Bengals (5-7) were ready to move on.

They are hanging on by a thread in the AFC playoff picture heading into Sunday’s home game against Chicago (3-9), sitting two games behind the Ravens (7-5) for a wild card spot with three other teams still ahead of them. The Chargers, Bills and Raiders are all 6-6.

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“At this point, we just have to handle our business and worry about what we can control, and that’s trying to win every game we play,” quarterback Andy Dalton said Wednesday. “We’ve been in this position before and made it. I think we made it our first year (2011) — we had to have help, and we were able to make it happen and end the year 9-7. At this point, we’ve just got to win and hope everything falls into place.”

Dalton said it’s difficult to erase what happened Monday – the Bengals gave up a 17-point lead and lost on a last-second field goal – but especially in a short week, it’s important to move on quickly.

Others said the loss is one that can make them stronger going forward. The Bengals played arguably their best half of football as they took a 17-0 lead in the second quarter, but the Steelers gained the momentum with a field goal heading into halftime and came back to score on the first drive of the second half to continue their climb.

“You have to have a short memory,” defensive end Chris Smith said. “Anything can happen in this league, so we just have to maintain (composure) and have a short memory and move onto the next week. In the NFL, you have your wins and losses, and you have to learn from them and move on.”

It helps their next opponent has been struggling, too, but the Bengals can’t afford any more slip-ups and are still relying on a lot of help from other teams to get through to the postseason.

“We’ve got to learn from it,” linebacker Kevin Minter said. “Now we don’t necessarily control our own destiny and that’s on us, but we’ve got to keep playing and hope everything works out for us. It’s a strong team, and if we get a chance, I feel like we can do something but stuff has to get corrected. I feel like we’ll figure it out.”

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