CINCINNATI — The Bengals lost to the Packers 25-22 in overtime on Sunday afternoon.
On the surface it may feel like a moral victory for Cincinnati. They nearly beat a Packers team led by Aaron Rodgers that has made it to two-straight NFC Championship games.
Unfortunately for those that watched it and for the players that played in it, Sunday felt like a missed opportunity.
“To me, it’s just another loss. And to this team, I think it’s just a loss," Trey Hendrickson said afterwards. "I don’t think anybody’s celebrating this performance. It’s just one of those things where we were in the right positions to win that game."
The Bengals had multiple chances to win on Sunday. Rookie kicker Evan McPherson missed two field goal attempts—one from 57-yards and another from 49-yards—in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Of course the kicks cost them a win, but what head coach Zac Taylor decided to do before those two misses might've cost the Bengals a victory.
Taylor opted to run the ball with Samaje Perine on 3rd-and-5 from the Packers' 42-yard line with 31 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Perine picked up three yards, which meant McPherson had to make a 57-yarder to win the game.
Had the Bengals thrown for a first down, not only could they have picked up more yards, but they would've been able to run the clock down and not give the ball back to the Packers.
Something similar happened on the Bengals' second drive of overtime.
Rookie wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase made an amazing 21-yard catch on the sideline that gave Cincinnati another chance at winning the game. They had a fresh set of downs at the Packers' 41-yard line.
Instead of putting the ball in Joe Burrow's hands, Taylor called running plays three-straight times after Chase's catch, gaining nine yards. Taylor opted to attempt the 49-yard field goal on 4th-and-1.
“At the end particularly, when it’s a game-winning field goal, that’s the difference. Had it been in the normal part of the game, we’d be more aggressive because we want to go score the touchdown," Taylor said after the game. "We just felt Evan was going to give us an opportunity to win, so let’s put him in a good position to do it. It just didn’t go our way today.”
Banking on McPherson is one thing, but this is the same team that relied on Burrow during a key fourth down in Week 1 against the Vikings in overtime. It was fourth an inches at midfield and Burrow found C.J. Uzomah for a 32-yard gain that set up the game-winning field goal.
That's the mindset that the Bengals should have against a team like the Packers.
It felt like Taylor was trying to sneak out of Paul Brown Stadium with a win, instead of taking it.
“The defense is holding it down for the offense. They’re giving us the ball back, and opportunities to make plays," Chase said after the game. "We’ve just got to capitalize on stuff like that. When we have the ball we’ve got to take advantage of it, put a dagger in them, kill them, and go home.”
The Bengals picked up the dagger on Sunday, but they didn't use it. Maybe they will the next time they're going up against a bonafide Super Bowl contender.
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