What it means: The drought continues. The Bengals extended their streak to 22 seasons without a playoff win, the longest streak in the NFL. In order for the Bengals to get the respect they want, they're going to have to win in the postseason. Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis is now 0-4 in the playoffs, which is the second-worst record in league history. This is the second straight season Cincinnati's season has ended with a playoff loss at Houston. This didn't look like the Bengals team that had won seven of its final eight regular-season games.
Coming up short: The Bengals had a chance to win the game on their final drive, getting as far as the Texans' 36-yard line. But quarterback Andy Dalton couldn't hit wide receiver A.J. Green in the end zone on third down. (Green was open but it was a tight window.) And, on fourth-and-11, Dalton's pass to Marvin Jones was caught but he ended up 3 yards short.
Dalton was awful: Dalton delivered one of his worst performances of the season. There were some drops (tight end Jermaine Gresham was terrible), but Dalton was severely off his game. He never got comfortable in the pocket because of the pass rush, and finished 14-of-30 for 127 yards and one interception. Dalton also failed to lead a touchdown drive. It was a disappointing effort because the Bengals' defense played well enough to win.
Bad play calling: Not sure what offensive coordinator Jay Gruden was thinking with this game plan. The Bengals didn't get the ball to Green until 10 minutes remained in the third quarter. Green finished with 80 yards on five catches. The most effective part of the Bengals' offense was running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis. But he finished with 11 carries despite averaging 5.7 yards per carry. Gruden won't be taking this tape to any interviews for a head-coaching job.
Couldn't stop the run: Just like in last season's playoff game, the Bengals failed to slow down running back Arian Foster, who gained more than 100 yards rushing again. Cincinnati was the 12th-ranked run defense in 2012 but didn't look like that in Houston. Foster finished with 140 yards on 32 carries.
Nose for the end zone: The only touchdown in the first half was scored by the Bengals' defense, which isn't surprising. Leon Hall's 21-yard interception return for a touchdown marked the fourth straight game in which the Bengals' defense reached the end zone. Hall, who had one touchdown in his first four seasons, now has scored twice in the past three weeks. This was only the second interception brought back for a touchdown in Bengals playoff history.
Ugly first half: The Bengals' offense struggled mightily in the first half. Cincinnati was outgained 250 yards to 53. The Bengals managed four first downs and crossed midfield just once in the first two quarters. With minus-6 passing yards in the first half, the Bengals became the first team since 2007 (the Chiefs) to have negative passing yards in the first half of a playoff game.
Disappearing act: The Bengals didn't throw one pass in the direction of Green in the first half. This marked the first time Green went an entire first half without a target.
What's next: The season is over but the future is bright for the Bengals. This is a young team that went to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. Still, with this awful playoff performance, there are going to be questions about whether Dalton is really a franchise quarterback.