Last night, I came home from skiing with my dad, sat down with him and watched the Wild Card playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals. I was hoping to watch a quality football game, and get some enjoyment out of a game I didn’t have much rooting interest in. As it turns out, I got that. I also got a terrible taste in my mouth after the end of the game.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Bengals were down 15-0. They traded punches throughout the game, hit Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger hard all day, and ultimately forced him out of the game with a shoulder injury when linebacker Vontaze Burfict hit him hard and sent him down onto his shoulder. He left and was replaced by Landry Jones, and the Bengals promptly capitalized on Roethlisberger’s absence by stuffing the Steelers offense and scoring 16 points to take a 16-15 lead with just under two minutes left to go in the game. When the Steelers got the ball back, Jones threw a pass that was intercepted by Burfict. The Bengals had the lead, the football, and the game in hand as long as they held onto the ball. They were on the doorstep of getting their first playoff victory since 1990.
And then, Bengals running back Jeremy Hill fumbled the football, giving Pittsburgh another chance. Better yet, Ben Roethlisberger returned from injury. He led the Steelers down the field to try a game winning field goal. They converted a fourth down to keep the drive alive with only a few seconds left in the game. Roethlisberger then threw deep to Antonio Brown to try and get into field goal range. The pass sailed high, and as Brown came down, Vontaze Burfict let his emotions get away from him, and hit Brown square in the head, sending him to the ground and likely giving him a concussion. Cincinnati was hit with a 15 yard penalty. When the players were trying to plead their case, the officials called another penalty when the officials were pushed and shoved by Bengals defensive back Adam Jones. The Steelers got 30 yards out of those penalties, kicked a field goal, and won 18-16.
I didn’t have a rooting interest in the game, but I am happy that the Steelers won. The Bengals lost control of their emotions, committed stupid penalties, and went out of their way to hurt the opposition. I’ve written here before on my experience with the NFL being a bit soured with a rash of unnecessary injuries and poor mentality by players. The Bengals summed that up very nicely with their behavior last night. They played like thugs and deserved to lose. To make it look worse, when Roethlisberger got hurt, the Bengals fans cheered his injury and threw debris on the field. The behavior of many Bengals fans matched the play on the field.
I went to bed with a bad taste in my mouth, and actually happy to not fully call myself an NFL fan after last night’s game. The team was disgraceful, the fans were jerks, and the players were fools. To be fair, Steelers assistant coach and former linebacker Joey Porter did not help matters when he went on to the field, and the Steelers contributed to the hostile atmosphere of the game. But the more egregious actions were committed by the Bengals.
Head coach Marvin Lewis deserves to be fired after that game. He has been the head coach of the team since 2003, has not won a playoff game, and lost control of his team at the most crucial point. The Bengals would do well to hire Hue Jackson as the new coach if a change is made. Burfict should be suspended and fined by the league, and so should Jones. I just wanted to watch a good football game. Instead, I watched the dark side of sports rear its ugly head. Hopefully the Sunday NFL games wash that taste out of my mouth!