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Sunday, December 20, 2009
Bengals lose out on No. 2 seed

By James Walker
ESPN.com

The Cincinnati Bengals deserve praise for their solid showing, in the midst of tragedy, during a 27-24 defeat to the San Diego Chargers.

The Bengals took the field just three days after the passing of teammate Chris Henry and nearly pulled off a big win under very tough circumstances. But Nate Kaeding's late field goal was the difference for San Diego.

In the standings this was a huge loss for Cincinnati (9-5). The Bengals could not make up ground on the Chargers (11-3) and missed a golden opportunity to take control of the No. 2 seed in the AFC and a first-round bye.

It's also Cincinnati's first two-game losing skid of the season at a time when most teams would prefer to be playing their best football. Back-to-back losses to San Diego and the Minnesota Vikings are nothing to be ashamed of. But winning one of those games would have been a huge confidence boost for the playoff-bound Bengals.

And, yes, Cincinnati will be in the playoffs for the first time since 2005. The question is how much damage will the Bengals do once they get there?

After losing to San Diego, the Bengals will have to prove themselves early in the postseason, starting in the wild-card round in January.