It’s definitely been a Cinderella season for the Cincinnati Bengals. The franchise hadn’t gone deep in the playoffs since 1991 when they beat the Houston OILERS in the Wild Card round before losing to the Raiders the following week. They’ve managed to return to the Wild Card game on numerous occasions since then, but they came up short each time – until this season. As they prepare to take the field in Super Bowl LVI, let’s revisit the road to Los Angeles.
How They Got Here
Back in Week 8, there were two pieces dropped on this site about teams who got less respect than they may have deserved at the time. One article talked about the Arizona Cardinals – at that point the only remaining undefeated team in the NFL. The other (penned by yours truly) discussed the Cincinnati Bengals. There was optimism in abundance after their decisive 41-17 drubbing of their division rival Baltimore Ravens. Week 8 would find them facing the NY Jets, which would be followed by a date with Cleveland before heading into their Week 10 bye. Bengals fans began to have visions of going deep into the playoffs, and this writer (who needed a distraction from the dumpster fire that his New York Giants currently are), was along for the ride.
My story didn’t go according to plan initially. Cincy would lose a close one to the Jets before getting blown out by the Browns, leaving them with a 5-4 record and licking their wounds during the bye. When they took the field again in Week 11, they found themselves in 3rd place in the division. They went 2-2 over their next 4 before finding their groove. They closed out the season with a 3-1 record, beating the Broncos, Ravens, and Chiefs, handing them the AFC North title and their first playoff berth since 2015.
Cinderella Heads to the Ball
The Wild Card game was their first trip to the playoffs since the 2015 season, and they found themselves facing the Las Vegas Raiders. It was a game that featured a lot of field goals, preventing either team from opening an insurmountable lead. Cincinnati would close things out in the 4th quarter and book their ticket to Tennessee.
Most of the talk heading into the Titans game had to do with the return of Derrick Henry from an injury that caused him to miss the previous 8 games. It was the Bengals’ defense that carried the load in this game, holding Henry to only 62 yards and picking off Ryan Tannehill 3 times. It led to a finish that was only fitting for what may have been one of the most exciting weekends of NFL playoff football I’ve ever witnessed.
Evan McPherson would boot a 53-yard FG with 20 seconds left on the clock to give Cincy their first ever road playoff victory. It would lead to a date with Kansas City for the AFC title.
As if the game against Tennessee wasn’t enough, the Bengals topped it with a thrilling overtime victory that now has them competing for the Lombardi Trophy in Los Angeles today.
A Bright Future Regardless of the Outcome
Coming into the game, the Bengals are widely regarded as the underdogs. Their opponents, the Los Angeles Rams, have gone “all-in” this season, and despite being the “visitors” in the game, they’ll be playing in their home stadium. There’s no doubt it will be a tall task for this team. The Rams have a daunting defense at every level, so the Bengals will need to really step up and protect Joe Burrow in order to have a chance. I think that matchup will ultimately determine the outcome of the game.
As a neutral fan, I’m very much looking forward to an entertaining game. I’m not sure if Cincinnati will be able to put the cherry on top this season, but I also wouldn’t be entirely surprised if they DO pull it off. Either way, it should be a great watch, and there are plenty of reasons for fans of this Bengals team to be excited about the future.
- / 1 year ago
To me, Rachel Nichols is the personification of posting a black square on Instagram.