Penalties a major reason Marvin Lewis' Bengals now 0-7 in postseason

CINCINNATI -- With the offseason here for the Cincinnati Bengals, we're taking a daily look at a few statistics that either defined the past season, or went overlooked during it.

Today, we highlight the following number:


Each of the past five promising Bengals seasons have come crashing to a halt in exactly the same way.

Yes, the Bengals are tired of hearing about their lack of postseason success, but until they finally win a playoff game, that storyline will continue to follow them around. It has been the defining characteristic of Bengals teams coached by Marvin Lewis. For as well as his teams have played across most of the 17 weeks leading up to the past five wild-card playoff rounds, they haven't looked as sharp once postseason play begins. The seven playoff trips in Lewis' 13 seasons are definitely commendable, particularly given where the franchise was before his arrival in 2003.

Still, a playoff victory for his team is long overdue.

Until 30 yards of penalties set up the Pittsburgh Steelers for a game-winning, chip-shot field goal in the closing seconds of this year's opening-round playoff game at Paul Brown Stadium, it appeared the Bengals were finally going to get on the right side of team history.

Since they've been well documented the past three weeks, we won't rehash the plays that led to the 30 yards in penalties here. But if you take those two personal fouls out of the equation, the Bengals would have, from a yards standpoint, had one of their least-penalized playoff games under Lewis. And they probably would have won the game.

If they had gone penalty-free in the final two minutes, the Bengals would have had 49 yards in penalties for the game. That would have gone down as the third-fewest penalty yards in a Lewis-coached playoff game.

But those 30 penalty yards do count. So instead of 49, they ended up with 79. It was the most penalty yards the Bengals have had in any of their past seven playoff losses.

There's irony here, too.

As indicated by the approximately $83,000 in fines later doled out to members of both teams, the Bengals weren't alone in drawing flags. The Steelers were flagged 10 times themselves for 142 yards. The Steelers outpaced the Bengals by so many yards that the margin of difference in penalty yards was greater in this game than in any of the previous six playoff games the Bengals had played.

At minus-63 yards, the Bengals, compared to their opponents, actually did a better job at keeping their penalty yards down than in any postseason game coached by Lewis.

Maybe that's to be applauded. But don't forget, the Bengals' 79 penalty yards really weren't all that good, either.