Playoffs kick off
Saturday, January 9, 2016
CINCINNATI — All week long, they played nice. The Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers went out of their way to curb their comments about how they really feel about each other.
“All that stuff’s over when you get into the playoffs,” Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. “It really doesn’t matter who it is or what division they’re from.”
Few people are buying it.
The Ohio River rivals have such a deep dislike for each other that they traded nasty words and tweets before they met at Paul Brown Stadium on Dec. 13, and then scuffled on the field during pregame warmups. There were so many personal fouls during the game that the league handed out more than $100,000 in fines.
Four weeks later, the only difference is that the stakes are higher.
The Bengals (12-4) are putting their 25-year streak of playoff futility on the line against the Steelers (10-6) tonight, trying to do a better job of keeping their cool. They got caught up in the emotion and suffered a meltdown four weeks ago, a 33-20 defeat that cost them a playoff bye and their starting quarterback.
Andy Dalton was leading the league in passer rating when he broke his thumb while making a tackle during an interception return. AJ McCarron took over and threw a pair of interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown.
The trash talking went on endlessly, getting so out of hand that Bengals coach Marvin Lewis and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin talked about it by phone the following day.
HOUSTON — The last time the Kansas City Chiefs won a playoff game, Bill Clinton was the president and Tonya Harding’s ex-husband had just been arrested for hiring someone to attack figure skating rival Nancy Kerrigan.
Kansas City (11-5) has lost eight postseason games since that win over the Oilers in Houston on Jan. 16, 1994, and will return to the city to face the Texans today in the wild-card round, looking to snap this lengthy skid.
The Chiefs, who have won a franchise-record 10 straight games, insist they won’t be thinking about their years of playoffs woes when they line up to meet the AFC South champion Texans.
“I don’t think this team’s carrying that weight, to be honest,” quarterback Alex Smith said. “Those were the other 22 years and 22 teams. This is us.”
So instead of thinking about playoff failures that include Lin Elliott’s three field-goal misses against Indianapolis in 1995 and the 28-point lead they blew against the Colts two years ago, the Chiefs are focusing on the challenge of dealing with Houston.
“Since 1-5, it’s been a playoff atmosphere,” Kansas City linebacker Derrick Johnson said. “It was kind of a win or go home type deal. We’ve been winning for 10 weeks straight. That doesn’t guarantee us an 11th win, but we do have some momentum ... We have to play our best game if we’re going to win in Houston.”
The Texans are perhaps this season’s most improbable playoff team after winning seven of their last nine games to rebound from a terrible start to finish 9-7 and return to the postseason for the first time since 2012.
They did it with four different quarterbacks and after losing star running back Arian Foster to a season-ending Achilles tendon injury in October. Houston got a boost from a defense led by NFL sack leader J.J. Watt that finished strong, allowing a league-best 12.7 points a game in its last nine games.