The franchise has reached the postseason for the first time since 2015. But are the Cincinnati Bengals ready to win a playoff game?
The season was 1990. The head coach was Sam Wyche and the starting quarterback was Boomer Esiason. The opponent was the Houston Oilers and the venue was Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Bengals 41, Oilers 14.
That day, Wyche’s club was ahead 20-0 at halftime and would coast to a 34-0 third-quarter lead over a Houston team that did not have future Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon. The Bengals outgained Jack Pardee’s club, 349-226, in total yardage.
Esiason threw for 150 yards and two scores and rushed for 57 yards and another touchdown. The team would go onto to lose to the then-Los Angeles Raiders a week later in the divisional round.
Unfortunately for the Bengals’ franchise, the setback to the Silver and Black (this Saturday’s opponent) was the beginning of eight consecutive postseason losses. It’s tied for the second-longest such streak in NFL annals and one short of the current record.
The Detroit Lions have dropped nine straight playoff games dating back to 1991 and that streak is still active. As for the Bengals, the last seven of those playoff setbacks came with head coach Marvin Lewis at the helm.
But it’s a different era with sideline leader Zac Taylor and second-year signal-called Joe Burrow. After going 6-25-1 in his first two seasons as head coach, he guided the club to a 10-7 record and the franchise’s first division title and playoff appearance since 2015. And one of those victories this season was an impressive 32-13 conquest of the Raiders in Week 11 at Las Vegas. Running back Joe Mixon ran 30 times for 123 yards and two scores.
Burrow and rookie wideout Ja’Marr Chase are the biggest standouts for Taylor’s balanced offense. And the Cincinnati defense bears watching as well. Led by 2021 free-agent pickup Trey Hendrickson, the team went from an NFL-worst 17 sacks a season ago to 42 quarterback traps in ’21.
It’s worth noting that the Raiders have had their own issues when it comes to postseason success. The franchise hasn’t won a playoff game since defeating the Tennessee Titans (ironically, the former Oilers) in the 2002 AFC Championship Game.
And both Burrow and Raiders’ quarterback Derek Carr will be making their first NFL postseason starts. It makes for an intriguing Saturday in the Queen City.