By Conrad Clowers
Herald Sports Writer
Waking up in Cincinnati this Monday morning is rough. You could live in Milford and probably hear a dog bark in Harrison. Over the last two seasons the Bengals have wiped out every team in the playoffs they have faced other than the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl. Cincinnati had won five playoff games between last season and this season. That’s the good news. The bad news is the team was dealt a blow by the Kansas City Chiefs that will last a long time. Despite three straight losses to Cincy, including the AFC Championship in 2022, Kansas City was finally able to turn the tables in the same fashion they have lost to the Bengals. A last second field goal.
Cincinnati and Kansas City are so evenly matched the outcome will almost always come down to who makes the most critical mistake at the worst time. A Joseph Ossai personal foul sealed the Bengals fate as it put Kansas City in field goal range to win the game. The foul had been set up by a long punt return late in the fourth quarter. The final score was decided by the same amount the last three meetings between the two teams had been decided. Three points.
A season like the 2022 Bengals will be looked at in many ways. Optimists will look at it as a success. A 14 win, 5 loss season with 10 straight wins and an appearance in the AFC championship. Pessimists will look at the season as a failure. Defending AFC Champion that could not defend its title or go as far as the previous season.
However, one thing can’t be disputed. Cincinnati now has the respect of the country and is viewed as a formidable team that is a threat to all other 31 teams.
In the end it was the same thing that kept the 2021 Bengals from winning the Super Bowl that kept the 2022 team from winning the AFC championship. Offensive line play. Despite going out and acquiring three new, highly respected and paid offensive lineman, it was the offensive line that would be the Bengals’ downfall. Going into the AFC title game, Cincinnati was without three of its starting five offensive lineman. Thus, the very detriment of ’21 became the flaw of ’22. Bengal quarterback Joe Burrow was sacked five times.
You can’t blame Bengal management. The effort and money to protect Burrow was there. Sometimes fate has other plans. The 23-20 Bengal loss sends the Kansas City Chiefs to their third Super Bowl in 4 years to face the Philadelphia Eagles. Unfortunately the Bengals and the entire fanbase will have to watch. Unlike the decades upon decades where just having an 8-8 record was like winning a championship in the city, the standards are now much higher. Anything less than a Super Bowl is a disappointment. When you’ve tasted an Outback Steakhouse steak, eating a Krogers Sirloin on sale is just not the same. Watching the Eagles play the Chiefs will hurt. It will hurt like no other Super Bowl ever played. Why? Because the Bengals have never gotten to a championship and lost. The future is bright. At this point. that’s the only thing fans can look forward to.