- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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What it means: The Bengals extended the longest current streak in NFL playoff futility. Cincinnati now hasn't won a postseason game in 21 seasons. Careless mistakes led to the Bengals' third postseason loss in seven seasons. After allowing 24 straight points, Cincinnati fell to 1-7 against teams with winning records. It was a disappointing way to end a season in which the Bengals went from 4-12 in 2010 to a playoff team this season.
Turning point: An Andy Dalton pass was intercepted at the line by Houston's J.J. Watt, who ran 29 yards for a touchdown late in the first half. This came three plays after the Texans had tied the game with a field goal. So, in a matter of 56 seconds, the Bengals went from being up by three points (10-7) to being down by seven (17-10). Cincinnati never recovered.
Costly drop: Bengals safety Chris Crocker had a chance to tie the game in the third quarter, but an interception bounced off his hands. It would have likely been a touchdown because only quarterback T.J. Yates stood between Crocker and the end zone. Three plays later, Crocker failed to provide help for a faked-out Adam Jones on a 40-yard touchdown pass to Andre Johnson that put the Bengals behind 24-10. In the fourth quarter, Crocker didn't push Arian Foster out of bounds on a fourth-quarter touchdown run.
Seeing red: Head coach Marvin Lewis made the head-scratcher of a decision to use both of his replay challenges in the first half. It was compounded by the fact that both challenges failed. That meant the Bengals couldn't contest a play after 4:33 in the second quarter.
Dalton's turnovers: Dalton threw three interceptions after only one in his previous six games. Of course, he wasn't helped by the pressure generated by the Texans' front seven.
Can't stop the run: It was another bad day for the Bengals' run defense, especially when it came to defending the outside. Foster ran for 153 yards and two touchdowns. This comes one game after the Ravens' Ray Rice ran for 191 yards and two touchdowns.
Wide right again: Bengals kicker Mike Nugent missed wide right on his first field goal attempt, which was nine yards longer because of a third-down sack. He sliced it wide right just like he did last week against Baltimore. This was his fourth miss in the past three weeks.
What's next: The Bengals head into what should still be a bright future. Cincinnati has two first-round picks as it looks to address the running back, guard and safety positions.