By Conrad Clowers
Herald Sports Writer
It took a loooonnng time. I mean, like, a real long time. Thirty-one years long. All you heard about was the curse of Bo Jackson all week. Back in 1991, the Bengals lost to the Los Angeles Raiders 20-10. A tackle from Kevin Walker gave Bo Jackson a hip injury. The injury ended Jackson’s career. This past week the Bengals were paroled from Bo Jackson Jail. A 26-19 victory over, fittingly, the Raiders, sent the Bengals to their first playoff advancement since 1991.
Cincinnati has had so much happen in the 31 years since advancing. The 1990’s were filled with mediocrity. Cincy had a few exciting players, but were underwhelming in their results. In the early 2000’s they received the gift of top passer Carson Palmer. Palmer would only be able to lead Cincy to two playoff appearances. Both epic failures. The 2010’s brought an Andy Dalton led Bengal attack. Dalton was a solid quarterback. He was not a top-level passer. Despite five straight playoff appearances, Dalton either underachieved or was hurt. Both scenarios showcased a Bengal 1st round exit.
The team said goodbye to head coach Marvin Lewis and a year later Andy Dalton. Enter Zac Taylor and generational talented QB Joe Burrow. In only Taylor’s third year and Burrows second year, the team was able to do what Marvin Lewis couldn’t do in 16 seasons, Carson Palmer couldn’t do in eight seasons, and the Jeff Blakes, Neil O’Donnells, and Akili Smiths of the world couldn’t do in any season. Cincinnati now has respectability in the NFL. They are no longer a joke. They are no longer an easy out. Cincinnati is a formidable foe and can defeat any other NFL team on any given day.
The team came out against the Las Vegas Raiders and took it to them the way they took it to everyone this season. The quarterback, passed…the receivers, caught. The defenders, defended. When it was all said and done it was a Bengal’s win. It didn’t come easy and without controversy. Nothing in Cincinnati ever does. The referee crew made questionable calls and reportedly will not be allowed to work any more playoff games.
The Cincinnati Bengals are known as an upstart. An upstart is a team that had been previous losers and was in no way, shape, or form expected to be in the playoffs.
While the Bengals have not won in a very long time, they have players who have. Joe Burrow (LSU), Jamar Chase (LSU), Tee Higgins (Clemson), and Jonah Williams (Alabama) have all been in college national championships. They all know how to win when it counts. No team they face will intimidate this core group on the Bengal offense.
This weekend the Bengals advance to the semi finals of the AFC championship. Standing in their way will be the Tennessee Titans. Cincinnati will have to go to Tennessee and stop maybe the most prolific running/passing combinations in all the NFL. No surprise if Cincy wins. The 2021 Bengals have had a business as usual approach all season. It’s why they are where they are.