The Bengals entered the game undefeated at home and 4-0 against teams that made the playoffs. They exited the game with a third consecutive wild-card round loss in which the offense imploded, failing to top 13 points.
Dalton entered the league with a reputation as a poor man's Matt Ryan, underwhelming as a thrower but NFL-ready with plus intangibles and fundamentals.
Three years later, there has been no growth. The only difference is that it's Dalton's decision-making rather than his arm strength that is preventing the Bengals' offense from reaching its potential.
Although Dalton has broken numerous franchise records in an inflated era for passing stats, he has been maddeningly inconsistent in terms of ball placement, pocket presence and field vision.
They continue to harbor the league's longest postseason losing streak in large part because their quarterback has demonstrated traits that cricket fans refer to as those of a "flat-track bully." He feasts on inferior competition while failing to elevate his game or the play of his teammates on the big stage.
"I don't have any questions about Andy's role," Lewis said after the game.
It takes a confident, creative plan to pull an organization out of quarterback limbo.
Those bold strokes are lost on Lewis, as evidenced by his game management during his team's five-game postseason losing skid.
Mediocrity is anathema to the NFL's best-run franchises. This one is more likely to hitch itself to Dalton's fallen star, committing to long-term morass rather than turning over every rock for an ascendent talent.