Story of Bengals season? ‘We come up short’

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Hill says Bengals need work on finishing

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Marvin Lewis summed up the Cincinnati Bengals’ second-half woes Sunday against the Steelers quite plainly, calling it the story of their season.

However, no one seems to have any answers why the offense continues to stall late in games.

After leading by as many as 14 and taking a 20-9 lead into halftime, the Bengals slowly saw the game slip away as the AFC North-leading Steelers scored 18 unanswered points for a 24-20 win at Paul Brown Stadium.

Cincinnati (5-8-1) totaled 38 yards of offense during its scoreless second half, marking the second time in the last five games the Bengals haven’t scored any points over the final two quarters. They haven’t managed a touchdown in three of the last five games, and there have been no fourth-quarter touchdowns in six straight games and in eight of the last nine.

“Unfortunately, it’s evident we’re not finishing the second half of the football game,” Lewis said. “Play the first half and move the football, and do a good job on offense, limit the opportunities defensively, and hold them to field goals – and then to not get it done in the second half . … That’s unfortunately the story of a lot of our season – we come up short.”

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Bengals cornerback Adam Jones (24) shows his frustration on missing an interception during their game against the Steelers, at Paul Brown Stadium, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

Bengals cornerback Adam Jones (24) shows his frustration on missing an interception during their game against the Steelers, at Paul Brown Stadium, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016. GREG LYNCH / STAFF
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Bengals cornerback Adam Jones (24) shows his frustration on missing an interception during their game against the Steelers, at Paul Brown Stadium, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

The Bengals scored on each of their first four drives – including two Randy Bullock field goals after getting inside the 7-yard line twice – to take a 20-6 lead with 2:34 left in the second quarter, but Pittsburgh stacked the box in the second half and Cincinnati managed just eight of its 76 rushing yards for the game.

Quarterback Andy Dalton said Pittsburgh taking away the run “made it harder” on the Bengals because it forced them into too many third-and-long situations they couldn’t convert.

Normally, they would take advantage with the passing game, Dalton said, but Cincinnati couldn’t beat the Steelers through the air either. Brandon LaFell, who had a team-high 91 yards on seven catches, managed just one of his receptions in the second half, and Tyler Eifert had one catch for nine yards all game.

“It’s not like we’re calling crazy play,” Eifert said. “We stick to the gameplan, and we, as a whole and as an offense, have to find ways to move the ball and sustain drives in the second halves and win these close games.”

The Bengals had four first downs in the second half. They punted three times and Dalton was intercepted once.

Running back Jeremy Hill, who scored on a four-yard run early in the second quarter and celebrated by trying to destroy a Terrible Towel, said the Steelers putting seven in the box wasn’t an excuse.

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Bengals running back Jeremy Hill (32) celebrates a touchdown run with offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth (77) during their game against the Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

Bengals running back Jeremy Hill (32) celebrates a touchdown run with offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth (77) during their game against the Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016. GREG LYNCH / STAFF
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Bengals running back Jeremy Hill (32) celebrates a touchdown run with offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth (77) during their game against the Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

“They were doing that stuff in the first quarter and we were popping runs through, so second half, we didn’t execute, whether it was missing assignments, guys in the backfield, whatever,” Hill said. “I don’t think I broke a tackle in the second half.”

Hill said the offense didn’t do enough to help the defense, which held the Steelers to field goals on six scoring drives before finally taking the lead on a 24-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Eli Rogers with 7:29 left.

Cincinnati got one first down on the next drive before punting and the Steelers ran out the clock over the final six minutes. The Bengals rank last in the league with 51 fourth-quarter points this season.

“We’ve got to come out there and make things happen,” tackle Jake Fisher said. “We’ve got to do things with our talents that we’re paid to do and get it done. It’s not whether our adjustments are good or bad. It’s us executing things.”

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