The Cincinnati Bengals will look to end the longest active drought for playoff wins by any team in the NFL this weekend, when they visit the Indianapolis Colts. Nine current players for the Bengals were not even born yet the last time this team actually won a playoff game. It is the longest active drought of playoff wins of any team in the league. The last time Cincinnati actually won a playoff game was in January of 1991 – 24 years ago. If they fail to win at Indianapolis this weekend, it will reach a quarter-century mark since the team’s last playoff win, which is an eternity when it comes to sports. Since the Bengals drought has coincided with a similar drought for the Reds, the city’s baseball team, a whole generation of fans in the area will have grown up without seeing their favorite teams field strong, competitive teams.
The Bengals roster that last won a playoff game featured many players that had reached Super Bowl XXIII in the 1988 season, just two years earlier. They almost won that one, too, but ultimately lost when San Francisco’s Joe Montana threw the winning touchdown pass to John Taylor with just 34 seconds left in the game to seal a comeback victory over Cincinnati. The 49ers had been strong favorites, but the Bengals played them tough, and very nearly pulled off a stunning upset. It was the second Super Bowl that the franchise reached in the eighties, although they lost both to San Francisco. Following a disappointing 1989 season, the Bengals returned to the playoffs in 1990. Cincinnati won the AFC Central division title, and beat Houston in the Wild Card game, 41-14, their most recent playoff win to date. The following week, they lost to the Raiders, 20-10, in a game better remembered as Bo Jackson’s last NFL game following a serious hip injury he sustained that day.
Cincinnati featured familiar names to all NFL fans back then. There was Boomer Esiason at quarterback, Anthony Munoz at center, head coach Sam Wyche, and running back Ickey Woods, with his famous “Ickey Shuffle.” The names for this franchise are not as well known right now, even though many of the players here have managed to do something that no other Bengals teams did in the past – qualify for the playoffs four years in a row.
That is an accomplishment that most teams would be proud of, but these players want more. The Cincinnati Bengals will look to end the longest active drought for playoff wins by any team in the NFL. They want to put an end to this drought, which is arguably the biggest monkey on the back of this franchise. Quarterback Andy Dalton, probably the most well known name for Cincinnati, feels that the team needs to try to win this weekend for those loyal fans back home, and that they owe it to them. Bengals safety George Iloka insists that he is not playing for money or any other frivolous reasons. He wants something that would matter to himself, and to the city of Cincinnati. That would take something special, something that people would remember for their entire lives. Namely, he wants to win a Super Bowl ring with the Bengals.
First, however, they need to end the playoff victory drought by beating the Colts on Sunday. It will not be easy, as Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium is known as a very tough place to play. When the Bengals visited in October, they lost, 27-0. It marked the first time in five years that the team was shutout, and the Bengals offense was limited to 135 total yards. The defense did not fare much better, as Colts quarterback Andrew Luck threw for three touchdowns, and Indianapolis piled up 171 rushing yards against Cincinnati. The only record that the Bengals would reach on that day was with a record tying 11 punts.
Luck had his best season as a professional quarterback so far this season for the Colts, as he threw for career bests in yards, with 4,761, and completion percentage, at just under 62 percent. He also threw 40 touchdowns, the most of any quarterback in the league this season. Furthermore, Cincinnati is well aware that even if Luck has a slow start, he can help ignite a potentially explosive offense at any time. For proof of that, the Bengals can ask the Kansas City Chiefs, who held a comfortable 28-point lead against the Colts in last year’s Wild Card game, only to ultimately lose in what was the second biggest comeback win in NFL playoff history.
The Cincinnati Bengals will look to end the longest active drought for playoff wins of any team when they visit Indianapolis on Sunday. Indeed, the Bengals know what they are up against, and just how difficult it will be to defeat the Colts to finally end that drought. Indianapolis won five of their last six games to finish the regular season in a very strong fashion, while Cincinnati failed to show that level of consistency themselves.
Commentary by Charles Bordeau
Photo by Navin75 – Flickr