By Conrad Clowers
Herald Sports Writer
Who-dey think gonna beat dem Bengals?…NOOO body!..
That Cincinnati Bengal war chant has been around for 40 years. The Bengals came oh-so-close to making the fictional chant nonfictional. In the most bizarre, wonderful and unexpected rolls in NFL history, Cincinnati fell just short of the Los Angeles Rams 23-20 in Super Bowl 56.
They weren’t suppose to be there. According to the pre-season experts, Cincinnati was supposed to win between five and seven games. Quarterback Joe Burrow wasn’t even suppose to be playing well until most of the season was over, as he came back from a devastating knee injury. Every once in a while history goes against the grain. The unexpected happens. The 2022 Bengals were 125-1 long shots to make it to the Super Bowl before the season.
As the wins grew so did the confidence. Blow out wins vs Baltimore, Pittsburgh (twice), and Kansas City (twice) made many people reevaluating the legitimacy of the Bengals. Once the team had solidified a playoff spot, few gave them a chance to win a playoff game … let alone three. As the wins in the playoffs grew, so did the bandwagon seats. Within one month, one of the most unlikely of the 32 NFL teams was headed to Hollywood to play in the biggest event in Western Civilization.
More often then not, the Super Bowl is usually a blowout. Most games are not even close. With Cincinnati’s three appearances in 1982, 1989 and 2022, the franchise has proven they come to play. No Cincinnati team has ever lost by a touchdown in the Super Bowl. All have been very close.
Coming into the 2021 season, Cincinnati had one glaring defect. The same offensive line that got Joe Burrow an early season exit in 2020, wasn’t much better in 2021. That glaring defect cost the team their first Super Bowl in 33 years, as the Rams sacked Bengal QB Joe Burrow seven times.
It was fourth down and a yard to go. The game was on the line with less then a minute left. Arguably the NFL’s most dangerous player in the shotgun. The ball is snapped. We’ll never know if Burrow could have gotten the Bengals in position to win or tie the game because, fittingly, he was sacked. At the season’s most critical time, the most scrutinized Bengal group (offensive line) did what many expected them to do. That is to give up a sack when they could least afford to.
The Bengal defense played the same way they did in all playoffs games. They played tough and smart. But as the defense did in Super Bowl 23 to Joe Montana, history repeated itself in Super Bowl 56, with Ram quarterback Matt Stafford. The defense could not get a stop when it was most needed. As was in Super Bowl 23, the clock read .39 seconds when the game was decided. It repeated itself with the Joe Burrow sack and the Rams taking over with 39 seconds left.
Oh well. The Cincinnati Bengals will have many months to agonize over the loss. At the same time optimism looms for the future. The Bengals are back to being a contender. We can only hope it doesn’t take another 33 years before another Super bowl appearance is made.