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Monday's Overtime Defeat Belongs To The Bengals, But All Is Not Lost

Upon further review, the Bengals can blame only themselves for Monday's less-than-clutch performance in the 20-17 overtime loss to the Broncos at Denver, and they did just that.

While the positives and negatives for the Bengals in Monday's debacle in Denver nearly balance each other out, being on the losing end of the score meant a job less than well done, and some of the players were pretty hard on themselves following the bitter defeat.

They had the chance to gain control of the AFC playoff's No. 1 seed, a first-round bye, a home game in the divisional round, and blew it a mile high.

“Well, obviously it was disappointing to lose the football game like that in overtime," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "It was a hard fought football game; we got off to a good start. We didn’t capitalize on much in the third quarter offensively, and we let the Broncos back into the football game."

Lewis was a bit dubious on one of the game's key plays: a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty on linebacker Vontaze Burfict, which put the Broncos closer to the eventual go-head field goal booted by Brandon McManus. The call came on the first overtime possession. The Bengals lost a fumble on the second possession of overtime, ending it.

“I don’t know. It was on the far side and on the sideline. He’s trying to tackle a guy and they are struggling; a lot of those things don’t get called and they let it go," Lewis said. "Both sides are pushing. I don’t think he does anything besides push the guy as he goes out of bounds; it happens all of the time. We’ll see what happened on the tape.”

Some of the playoff scenarios remain in play. The Bengals still can secure the No. 2 seed, with a lot of help from other teams. After watching Week 16's slate of games unfold in surprising fashion, anything is possible the final week. First things first, the Bengals have to beat Baltimore on Sunday at home.

“I’m not going to say disappointing, because at the end of the day we put ourselves in a pretty good situation," Bengals defensive end Wallace Gilberry said. "We got another game coming up Sunday, so we’re going to focus on that and finish strong at home and whatever happens, happens.”

McCarron, subbing for injured starter Andy Dalton (broken thumb), has not been cleared to play against the Ravens. He suffered a strained left wrist on Monday's final play while trying to recover the loose ball that wound up in the hands of Denver defensive end DeMarcus Ware. McCarron is day to day after having an MRI on Tuesday which revealed no major structural damage.

“It was my fault. I told the team and the offensive guys that. I told Russ (center Russell Bodine) that I looked up to see the coverage and the snap caught me by surprise," McCarron said. "I take the blame. It was my fault.”

McCarron was a stand-up guy in the face of game-ending adversity: “My fault. Like I said, I told the guys that. The snap caught me by surprise. I was looking to see how they were adjusting to A.J. (Green) coming in motion. And it slip through my hands and hit my rib protector, and bounced off. It’s my fault, simple as that.

"It just sucks to lose a game like that when you have fought so hard and came back, battle backed, had a lead, lost it, battled back and gave your chance to win the ball game. I take the blame. ... It's just one of those plays. I wish that I could have it back, but that's football. We have to move on to next week now and get ready to play."

Green suggested everybody, especially the banged-up players, knew what was at stake, and was hoping for a team-wide belated Christmas gift that never came down the chute.

“It’s tough. We have a lot of guys banged up, so we could have really used that bye," Green said. "All we have to do is go out there and take care of next weekend, and hope for the best. We still have a lot more football to play.”

While a devastating blow, Monday's loss was no knockout hit. The AFC North champion Bengals are heading to the postseason for the fifth year in a row. "It’s sad because we kind of threw away opportunity," Gilberry said. "But, at the end of the day, we’re in the playoffs."

Gilberry admitted that Monday's game should have not come down to overtime. "We left plays out there and it shouldn’t have come down to that. But, it did, and they scored enough points to win the game," he  said. "So, we just have to go back, watch the film, make the corrections and put it into action. We still have a lot of football ahead of us, and we have a good team, good locker room, and guys overcome well. It’s just one of those things you're going to have to overcome and keep pushing.”

Bengals cornerback Adam Jones agreed with Gilberry, and looked ahead optimistically, "We lost a game by three in overtime today, which, if you go back and look at the game, a couple plays, the whole game could’ve been different. Take this one on the shoulder, suck it up, make sure the guys are still good in here, and we’ll be all right.”

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