The Cincinnati Bengals were shoved out of the playoff picture by the Houston Texans for the second consecutive year. Saturday's 19-13 loss will be hard to digest for a franchise that must assume its January fate is preordained at this point.
The Texans dominated in time of possession and total yardage, but Houston's inability to get the ball in the end zone -- in addition to a first-half pick six by Bengals cornerback Leon Hall -- kept Cincinnati in striking distance.
The Bengals' offense just couldn't find a way to break through. The Bengals went 0 of 9 on third-down conversions, and Andy Dalton continued a month-long trend with a down performance that included two misses on potential touchdown hook-ups with A.J. Green.
The second opportunity will sting for some time. With 2:51 remaining and the Bengals facing a third-and-11 from Houston's 36-yard line, Green slipped past Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph and away from safety Danieal Manning, late in coverage. If Dalton hits Green on the throw, the Bengals are an extra-point conversion away from a 20-19 lead. Instead, Dalton's ball was well overthrown.
"I have to do a better job of making sure A.J. get his catches," Dalton said, via The Cincinnati Enquirer.
Marvin Lewis falls to 0-4 in the playoffs, including three wild-card losses in the past four years. Lewis deserves credit for building the Bengals into a consistently competitive team, but these January losses eventually will take their toll.
Taking a step back, the Bengals now have gone 22 seasons without a playoff win. That's an NFL record you want no part of.
Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @DanHanzus.