After 13 losses and three lousy quarters, it was awfully late for the Cincinnati Bengals to start a comeback.
Give them credit — they tried.
The Bengals overcame a 23-point deficit in the final 5:01 and scored 16 points in the last 29 seconds to force overtime, but lost anyway and had to settle for clinching the No. 1 pick in the April draft.
“Our team doesn't care about that right now,” coach Zac Taylor said. “We're just trying to win. If you have any competitive juices in you, you can't go on the field and not try to win.”
No one will likely accuse Cincinnati of not trying Sunday. But the Bengals lost to the Miami Dolphins 38-35 when Jason Sanders kicked a 37-yard field goal on the last play of overtime.
Cincinnati (1-14) trailed 35-12 before Andy Dalton threw a touchdown pass with 5:01 left.
“All of a sudden this thing comes to life,” Taylor said. “Everyone was in it together. That energy was what the energy should be on every play of our season.”
Then came the flurry of the final minute in regulation. After another TD pass by Dalton and a 2-point conversion throw cut the deficit to 35-27, the Bengals recovered an onside kick.
They reached the 25 with four seconds left. Miami dropped eight players to the goal line, but 6-foot-6 tight end Tyler Eifert reached above two defenders in the end zone to catch Dalton's throw.
On the 2-point conversion, Dalton couldn't find an open receiver, rolled out and ran to the end zone to tie the game. He spiked the ball and headed toward his bench grinning at the improbability of it all — a memorable moment in a forgettable season.
“You're happy — you just tied the game,” Dalton said. “The way the game was going it was a relief, like, `We did it. Let's go win this game now.“’
Said Taylor: “He was as fiery as I've ever seen him.“
Dalton, who has endured a rocky season and even lost his starting job for three games, threw four touchdown passes. He finished 33 for 56 for 396 yards, the second-highest total of his career.
“A big shout-out to Andy,” center Trey Hopkins said. “He told us we had a shot and never stopped believing.”
There was no overtime magic, though. The Bengals twice forced Miami to punt but went three-and-out each time, and the Dolphins then drove 51 yards for the winning field goal.
It wasn't the first wild overtime game between Cincinnati and Miami. In 2013, Cameron Wake gave the Dolphins a 22-20 victory when he sacked Dalton for a game-winning safety — only the third overtime safety in NFL history.
The Bengals are assured of at least tying for the worst record in club history. They went 2-14 in 2002.
The bright side: They’re also assured of the league’s worst record, and the No. 1 draft choice that goes with it.
Jets 16, Steelers 10
The Pittsburgh Steelers' path to the postseason just got a lot more difficult.
They entered their game Sunday against former teammate Le'Veon Bell and the New York Jets with their playoff destiny in their hands. They fumbled that away with an ugly 16-10 loss.
“Not a lot to say, and appropriately so,” coach Mike Tomlin said. “This time of year is put up or shut up time and we didn't get the job done today. We accept responsibility for that and the ramifications of it.”
The Steelers (8-7) now need to win next Sunday at Baltimore, the AFC's top seed, just to stay alive. They also need Tennessee, which is also 8-7 and currently holds the final wild-card spot, to lose at Houston.
“We're done worrying about what other people are doing,” linebacker T.J. Watt said. “I think it's time, and it's been that way the whole season, to focus on us. Figure stuff out and find ways to win football games.”
The Steelers also have more injury concerns as running back James Conner, center Maurkice Pouncey and quarterback Mason Rudolph all left with injuries. All three will be evaluated and their availability for the game against the Ravens is uncertain.
Conner, who left in the second quarter with a thigh injury, had 32 yards on six carries before leaving. Pouncey hurt his left knee at the end of the third quarter.
“That's what we're paid to do,” Tomlin said of dealing with three key injuries. “We embrace that. We're professionals. We've got quality depth. The standard of expectation doesn't change. We didn't do enough today.”
Pittsburgh also has a big-time quarterback quandary. Devlin Hodges was benched in this one after throwing two interceptions, but came back early in the fourth quarter Rudolph hurt his left shoulder.
Hodges was 11 of 17 for 84 yards and the two interceptions, while Rudolph was 14 of 20 for 129 yards and a touchdown to Diontae Johnson that helped the Steelers erase a 10-0 deficit to tie it at halftime.
Hodges had a chance to lead the Steelers to a comeback win, but fell short.
His deep pass for James Washington on third-and-7 from the Jets 44 was knocked away by Marcus Maye in the end zone. On fourth down, Hodges' pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster fell incomplete in front of a MetLife Stadium crowd that appeared to be at least half-filled by Steelers fans.
“I'm still going to be confident,” Hodges insisted. “I can't let these things get to me. You've got to learn from them. I've got the job done before and I just have to do it again.”
Smith-Schuster, who returned after missing four games with a knee injury, had two catches for 22 yards.
Former Steelers star wide receiver Hines Ward, now an offensive assistant on Adam Gase's staff with the Jets, said he hoped to celebrate a win with a Gatorade shower — and he got one moments after New York's final defensive stop sealed the win.
Meanwhile, Bell helped deal his former team's playoff hopes a big blow, running for 72 yards, including 7 on a big third-down play in the fourth quarter, on 25 carries. Bell spent his first six NFL seasons in Pittsburgh, but after sitting out all last season in a contract dispute, signed with the Jets (6-9) in the offseason. Bell also had four catches for 21 yards.
“You know, every win feels great,” Bell said. “But this one had a little extra topping on it.”
Sam Darnold went 16 of 26 for 183 yards and a touchdown to Robby Anderson.
The Jets, who blew a 10-0 second-quarter advantage, retook the lead on Sam Ficken's 37-yard field goal with 6 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter. The drive was helped by rookie tight end Trevon Wesco's 32-yard catch-and-run that put New York at the Steelers 19.
Ficken's 42-yarder with 3:11 left made it 16-10. The drive was kept alive by Bell's 7-yard run on third-and-5 from the Steelers 39.
“It was a dogfight,” Darnold said. “We knew that coming in and we did our job.”