Posted: 2:10 a.m.
It is a sign how far the Bengals passing game has fallen and how far wide receiver Chad Ochocinco has come. At least in the moments after a numb offense, drained defense, and invisible kicking game added up to Saturday's 24-14 loss to the Jets in an AFC Wild Card game at Paul Brown Stadium.
Four years after his halftime implosion in a Wild Card loss to Pittsburgh defined him, The Ocho calmly met the media after catching just two balls for 28 yards in the final 11:45.
A week after getting blanked by the Jets in the regular season finale by Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis, he had two balls thrown his way in the first three quarters and one was intercepted by Revis at the Jets 23. One of the two times the Bengals did go down the field to Ochocinco, he drew a 26-yard penalty on Revis that put them in field goal range, trailing 14-7, early in the third quarter.
"He made a good play," said quarterback Carson Palmer of the Revis pick. "He was on top of Chad and I was trying to throw a back-shoulder ball. Obviously, it wasn't a good enough ball. He made a good play."
Told he no doubt wanted to have a happier 32nd birthday, The Ocho said, "I'm glad I got to see 32. You have your ups and you have your downs. I'm going to be (in Cincinnati) for awhile. I don't feel like going home. My friends, my family, my mom, my grandma. I'll be all right for about a month."
Less than three hours after the game he was tweeting that his fans' road trip from Cincinnati to Miami for The Super Bowl "will consist of children's hospital visits, homeless shelters and anyone else who needs help in Cincy and Miami."
Would that include the Bengals passing game?
For the third straight game, the wide receivers didn't have a catch longer than 22 yards and there was only one longer than 20. There were at least three passes dropped on third down and for the 30th time in the last 33 games, the Bengals failed to score 24 points.
"I don't think we ever really had a point where we were consistently taking shots," Ochocinco said. "The checkdowns might have been the choice of the day, but that's not doing anything. Regardless of what we call, all we have to do as an offense is execute. It's easy. It's assignment football. The game should have been a lot easier because we just played them. Not a thing (did the Jets change). We had our games where we were on the money. Then we had some games it wasn't easy, I don't know why."
But, unlike '05, he was upbeat about the Bengals' future.
"It's good. It's headed in the right direction," The Ocho said. "Last year was a horrible season, but having finished this season in the playoffs, there's something to build on going into next year. That's a positive when you look at it. The pieces are already here. The defense is solid, the offense needed work all season long, but we found a way to win consistently to win 10 games. You can always add a little sugar to the offense. We'll see what happens in the offseason. I'm sure the organization will make the right decisions in bringing people in. Especially the draft, and with offseason acquisitions. I want to see how the offseason goes. I want to see what we do to help us improve. That 's where my mindset is now."
He joked that he has a deal with Bengals president Mike Brown to play until he's 49. Actually it's 34. If the Bengals decide not to exercise the option in 2011 at $6 million per year, they have to pay Ochocinco $3.5 million.
Asked if he wants to be back, The Ocho said, "I don't have a choice. A contract is a contract."
He was even politically correct when asked if the Bengals could have done more off play-action given running back Cedric Benson's 169 yard on the ground.
"You're trying to get me in trouble," he said. Then he got up to leave and said, "Guys, it's been wonderful."
Saturday wasn't, but the AFC North title season was wonderful. The Ocho left quietly, knowing if he didn't blow up during this one, he probably never will.