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Bengals don't resemble playoff team; fall to Bills

CINCINNATI -- It was not the Cincinnati Bengals' day on Sunday.

The Bengals are still searching for their first win since Oct. 23 after their last-second touchdown attempt fell incomplete in a 16-12 loss to the Bills (5-5) at home.

Bengals kicker Mike Nugent missed two extra points. Quarterback Andy Dalton threw two interceptions and finished the game with a 57.0 quarterback rating. Worst of all, wide receiver A.J. Green, arguably the most important piece of the Bengals' offense, was carted off with a hamstring injury that could end his season, sources tell ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Maybe it's just not their year. The Bengals' best hope to reach the playoffs is to win the AFC North.

That seems like a long shot at this point.

For a team that's used to going to the postseason, the Bengals (3-6-1) just don't look like a playoff team this year.

The Bengals started this season by repeating that they're not last year's team, but that was meant to suggest they would be more disciplined than the 2015 Bengals. But the truth is, they're not as good as last year's team.

At this point last season, the Bengals were 8-2 and running through the AFC North en route to a 12-4 record and a playoff berth.

Now they're just trying to figure out where they went wrong.

The answer to that, at least on Sunday, was everywhere. Cincinnati was one of the healthiest teams in the league until this week. By late afternoon on Sunday, not only had it lost Green, but the rest of the team struggled just to make it through the game.

Safety Shawn Williams went to the locker room and didn't return. A knee injury took out cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick in the second half. Even long-snapper Clark Harris could barely walk on the sideline because of a groin injury.

As for Nugent, he's healthy but treading on thin ice. Nugent was one of six kickers who missed at least one extra point attempt during Sunday's early games and one of two (along with Robbie Gould) to miss two in one game.

The Bengals already tried out kickers after Nugent struggled earlier in the season. It would not be a surprise to see them bring in kickers again.

Although Nugent's missed PATs were the difference between the Bengals trying for a game-winning field goal instead of a last-second touchdown, he's probably not at the top of their list of worries.

The most troubling part of Sunday's loss is that even Nugent's mistakes can't be named as the sole reason they failed to win. The Bengals were simply average in every area.

The Bengals' defense actually put together three good sequences while allowing their lowest point total of the season.

After the Bills intercepted Dalton and ran the ball back to the Bengals' 3-yard line, Cincinnati's defense pushed them back to the 8-yard line. They were helped by a Bills holding penalty, but the Bengals kept Buffalo out of the end zone and forced a field goal attempt instead, trailing 10-6. They scored on the next series to take a 12-10 lead, but missed the PAT.

Later in the quarter, Kirkpatrick picked off Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor in the end zone with 55 seconds left. The Bengals did not score on the following possession and Dalton was intercepted again to end the first half.

In the third quarter, with the Bengals trailing 16-12, Buffalo drove all the way to the Cincinnati 5-yard line, but again came away with only a field goal to show for it. The Bengals' offense did not score again.

The offense did what it could without Green but managed only 300 net yards of offense and ran out of time when trying to score the go-ahead touchdown at the end of the game.

It would be easy to point out the opportunities the Bengals didn't take advantage of on Sunday, but they simply weren't good enough to win.

The Bengals travel to face the Baltimore Ravens next week.