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NFL

Colts send Bengals to 4th consecutive opening-round playoff loss

| Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015, 7:27 p.m.

INDIANAPOLIS — Very ugly. And very familiar.

It happens to Andy Dalton and the Bengals every year, which is why that incredible streak is 24 years and counting since Cincinnati's most recent playoff win.

The Bengals made NFL history Sunday when they lost an opening-round playoff game for the fourth year in a row.

Andrew Luck took apart their secondary, Dalton and the offense went nowhere in the second half, and the Bengals lost 26-10.

“It's kind of like missing a field goal that you feel you should have hit,” said kicker Mike Nugent, who set a Bengals record with a 57-yard field goal.

No matter what they accomplish during the season — and their four straight playoff appearances are a franchise record — they come unglued in the biggest games.

“In the big moments, the guys that are our big guys have to make the plays,” left tackle Andrew Whitworth said.

“You see it every week. You look at the teams that win, their top guys make the plays that get them where they've got to go.”

Dalton and Baltimore's Joe Flacco are the only quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era to lead their teams to the playoffs in each of their first four seasons. Flacco has won a Super Bowl, and has his team headed to New England next week after winning on Saturday at Heinz Field.

“You've got to play your best football once you're here, and today we didn't play our best,” said Dalton, who was 18 of 35 for 155 yards with three sacks and a fumble. He played without Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green and tight end Jermaine Gresham, sidelined by a concussion and a sore back, respectively.

Dalton didn't make the type of costly turnover that doomed the Bengals in their previous three playoff losses.

He didn't do much of anything noteworthy, showing there's a difference between him and the NFL's elite quarterbacks.

Those other ones — such as Luck — make impressive plays under intense pressure. Luck was 31 of 44 for 376 yards with a touchdown.

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