The Bengals brought training camp to downtown Cincinnati, holding camp at the club's home facility for the first time. The team had trained for 29 seasons at Wilmington (Ohio) College and for the next 15 at Georgetown (Ky.) College. Changes in the NFL's Collective Bargaining Agreement helped drive the change, as the Bengals joined a majority of NFL teams which had switched to their home bases. With the new CBA reducing the amount of time players could be on the practice field, it was thought that their increased non-field time could be much better used at Paul Brown Stadium, where medical and classroom facilities were far superior to any remote camp site. Plans for a second straight playoff season seemed to have gone awry when the team lost four straight after a 3-1 start, standing 3-5 at the season's halfway point. But the Bengals stormed back to go 7-1 in the second half and clinched a Wild Card postseason berth with a 10-6 record. The only loss in the final eight games came by one point, 20-19 to Dallas, on a Cowboys FG at the final gun. Of 131 NFL teams to post 3-5 starts between 1990-2012, the Bengals were one of only nine to reach the playoffs, and the 7-1 finish tied the 1981 Cincinnati Super Bowl team for best second-half record in a 16-game season. Cincinnati lost at Houston in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight year, but it was the first time for the Bengals to reach postseason two years in a row since 1981-82. The Bengals clinched their playoff berth with a 13-10 win at Pittsburgh in Game 15, at the same time eliminating the rival Steelers from contention. CB Leon Hall got the only Bengals TD against the Steelers, on a 17-yard INT return. The defense ranked sixth in the NFL in fewest yards allowed (319.7 per game), and it collected a team-record 51 sacks (though the 1976 team, in a 14-game season, had a higher average of sacks per game). All-Pro DT Geno Atkins led the sack parade with 12.5, third-most in club history and most on the season by a margin of 4.5 among NFL interior linemen. WR A.J. Green scored at least one TD in nine straight games (Games 2-10), a Bengals record for within one season. He became only the second NFL player in a 48-year span to have at least one receiving TD in nine straight games in a season, joining Hall of Famer Jerry Rice. P Kevin Huber posted averages of 46.6 gross and 42.0 net, club records that he reset in 2014. New technology lessened the need of the '12 team for notebooks and attention to bulletin boards, as the Bengals became one of the first NFL clubs to issue players tablets, for easy distribution of schedules, video and other key information. Shortly after the end of the season, Bengals RBs coach Jim Anderson announced his retirement. Anderson had joined the Bengals staff in 1984, and his 29 seasons stand through 2017 as a franchise record for most total seasons on the Cincinnati coaching staff. During his last six seasons, Anderson had the most consecutive years with his team of any position coach in the NFL.
The Bengals were outgained 420-198 and had only 21:11 possession time, but they hung in against the favored Texans on the strength of a defensive TD and excellent defense in the red zone. Cincinnati had a first down at the Houston 35 with 3:40 to play, looking for a TD for the lead, but the offense could get no farther, and Houston ran out the clock after Cincinnati surrendered the ball on downs. The Bengals got their lone TD on a 21-yard Leon Hall INT return in the second quarter, a play that gave Cincinnati a 7-6 lead. The defense overall was in a bend-but-not-break mode, allowing four red-zone penetrations but forcing the Texans to settle for one TD and three FGs. Houston RB Arian Foster was the day's outstanding individual performer, rushing for 140 yards on 32 carries.