The Cincinnati Bengals have one of the most up and down history’s in the league. The moment it all started was with Paul Brown and his son Mike choosing Cincinnati as the home of their new team. Early leadership from Owner and coach Paul Brown had the early 70’s Bengals competitive until Brown left the coaching chair at the end of 1975. Then in the 80’s, the Bengals seemed to reach their golden age after appearing in two Super Bowls. The 80’s also saw superstar quarterbacks Ken Anderson and Boomer Esiason being protected by Hall of Fame left tackle Anthony Munoz. Through the 90’s and early 2000’s, the Bengals were basically incompetent and all around a poor football team. The present day has seen a competitive spirit in Cincinnati even though it has not translated fully in the playoffs.
So let’s explore the top moments of the orange and black.
- Ken Anderson‘s Monday night performance in 1975
- The building of Paul Brown Stadium
- The Jim Breech field goal against the Redskins in 1988
- The hiring of Sam Wyche
10. Chad Johnson Guaranteeing Win Over Undefeated Kansas City Chiefs
In Marvin Lewis‘s first season, Chad Johnson did not waste any time putting pressure on the rookie coach. As the 2003 4-5 Cincinnati Bengals team clinched a victory versus Houston, Chad Johnson made his bold prediction, that the under .500 Bengals would serve the Chiefs their first loss.
You also would have laughed at it then. With the Bengals coming off a franchise-worst 2-14 2002 year and in an average 2003 season, Most NFL fans did. But Kansas City ended up losing in the jungle that day. After a slow first half which ended tied 3-3, one Bengals wide receiver blew up. No, it was not Chad Johnson. It was the number two guy, Peter Warrick. In the fourth quarter, the third-year wideout returned a punt for 73 yards. The next Bengal’s drive, Warrick took a pass from Jon Kitna 77 yards to the house. This ultimately sealed the game as the Chiefs were two scores behind late in the fourth quarter. Warrick finished with a career-high six catches for 114 yards and Chad Johnson finished with seven catches for 74 yards. This win put the Bengals tied for first in the division and also put Marvin Lewis in the conversation for coach of the year. This showed that the Bengals were back to being a competitive force.
9. Corey Dillon Breaks The Single Game Rushing Record
Please know that I am aware of how sorry the 2000 Bengals were. A 4-12 team that was shutout multiple times in the season. But, for one game, Cincinnati was on top of the football world. Let’s set up the game. A 0-6 Bengals team welcomed in the 2nd ranked rushing defense of the Denver Broncos. Everyone thought that it was just going to be another week of loaded boxes and Akili Smith showing he just was not ready for the NFL and that the Bengals should have taken the nine draft picks for him. Oh, how the tables turned.
After an explosive 70 yard touchdown by Peter Warrick and then losing Akili Smith to a neck injury, the Bengals interim coach Dick LeBeau put his faith in the running game. Running back Corey Dillon did not disappoint. The Bengals noticed how the Bronco’s seemed to be aggressive and overextending most plays, so the hard-running Dillon had a field day. In the fourth quarter, Dillon took a 65-yard run into the end-zone, giving the Bengals a 24-14 lead. The Broncos could not let it end that easy though. Their offense made it 21-24 with enough time to stop the Bengals and keep the team winless. This was not what destiny had in mind. With a minute and a half left on the clock, Corey Dillon sealed the game with a 41-yard touchdown run and the sideline went wild. When the screen flashed 278 yards, Corey Dillon learned he had broken a legend’s record. While the rest of the season was nothing of importance and Dillon would eventually lose the record, this moment had the whole City of Cincinnati standing and cheering.
8. The 2011 Draft
Now please, let me explain. This is the draft where the Bengals picked some of the most important players in franchise history, A.J. Green and Andy Dalton. Obviously, we all know that the playoffs have been a struggle for the Bengals the past few years. But, these two players have led the franchise to the best six-year stretch it’s ever seen with a total of 58 regular season wins. 2016 is the first time these two have gained less than nine wins and four out of the six years were 10 or more wins a season. A.J. Green has been a highlight reel every season and is with Randy Moss as the only two wide receivers with 1,000 receiving yards in their first five seasons. Andy Dalton had an amazing year in 2015 that ended with a poorly timed injury but has proved himself a worthy starter in this league. These two have taken the Bengals to the playoffs five out of the last six years. Cincinnati will remember this draft class as the one that gave them some of the top players for the franchise.
7. Cincinnati Bengals Hire Marvin Lewis
Coming in after a franchise worst 2-14, 2002 season, Marvin Lewis has changed the whole attitude of the Cincinnati Bengals. A defensive minded coach being hired in Cincinnati broke most of the traditions of the team. But, Marvin has taken a Bengals team that was terrible in the 90’s through early 2000’s and given fans something to be excited about. The second-longest tenured head coach has taken the Bengals to seven playoff appearances and is the winningest coach in franchise history with 118 wins. I can not argue against his playoff record but Lewis has always loaded the team with talent and kept them competitive, which has not been done since the 80’s and Sam Wyche. Let’s not forget everything this guy had done for the franchise.
6. The End Of The 2005 Regular Season
Now we all know how that wild-card game went. Every Bengals fan remembers Carson Palmer being carted off the field and then the team just collapses. But let’s not let that overshadow what this whole season meant for Cincinnati. The first time back to the playoffs since 1990! 14 Seasons! This ending of the drought was lead by a young, powerful offense. A Carson Palmer lead passing attack and a great season of running from Rudi Johnson. This is the season the present day Bengals actually proved they could have a shot in the playoffs. An 11-5 record and being 1st in the division gave the city hope, something it had not had since the 80’s. Going to the playoffs also allowed the city to experience the first ever playoff game in Paul Brown Stadium since it had been built in 2000. There was magic in Cincy in 2005 that was sadly cut short.
5. The Drafting Of Anthony Munoz
Munoz was drafted in 1980 as the number three overall pick. There’s not much else to really say about this beast of a left tackle. It was all said by his play on the field. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998. He is the biggest reason that Ken Anderson and Boomer Esiason had MVP level play. Also an athletic freak, he played 185 games and also was a part of the two Bengal Super Bowl appearing teams. He’s the greatest left tackle to ever play football and the greatest player to ever put on a Bengals uniform.
4. “Baltimore Here We Come”
The 1970’s Bengals were young. In fact, the Franchise was only three years old. But on December 20th, the Bengal’s became the youngest team to win a professional sports title. The title? The AFC Central champions.
The newly formed NFL had placed the Bengals with the Steelers and Browns and no one really expected the young Franchise to compete. At the beginning of the season, they really did not. They won their first game but proceeded to lose six in a row. But then, the “Miracle Bengals” went on to win seven games in a row. The “Miracle Coach”, Paul Brown, was carried off the field by players as he had led his new franchise to the post-season and to a championship. On that day they had beaten the, at the time, lousy Boston Patriots with their consistent rushing attack and dominant late-season defense. The game ball was given to backup quarterback and future coach Sam Wyche for coming in the game after starter Virgil Cook left with a shoulder injury. Wyche kept the offense flowing and outplayed Joe Kapp, the Patriots starter. Eight years after being fired by Art Modell, Paul Brown had led Cincinnati to the playoffs and a division title. Brown was on top of the world that day.
3. “Ickey Shuffle” To The Super Bowl
The 1988 Bengal’s season was something to remember. The unstoppable Steve Wyche “no huddle” offense was as confusing to people as it was terrifying. MVP quarterback Boomer Esiason was scary slinging the ball all over the field. But January 8th was the high point of running back Ickey Woods career. Because of his performance in the AFC Championship Game and also because of the “Ickey Shuffle,” the dance that took over Cincinnati and for good reason. The rookie broke for 100 yards rushing for the sixth time in nine games and his two touchdowns were followed by his dance. The running game sent the Bengals to their second Super Bowl after holding the ball for just over 39 minutes and keeping it away from Jim Kelly. Oh, let’s not forget that the NFL banned the “no huddle” two hours before kickoff.
The defense was also on fire led by Tim Krumrie. The secondary was able to get three interceptions on quarterback Jim Kelly. Krumrie led the front seven in shutting down Buffalo’s run game by only allowing 45 yards on the ground.
2. The Kick Return That Sparked Cincy’s Dreams Of A Championship
The Super Bowl of 1989 is remembered for the last few minutes when the 49er’s offense took the field for the final time. But, what most forget is the Stanford Jennings kick return. Probably the highest point in Bengals history because of it was the first touchdown scored in the Super Bowl and set the Bengals ahead. After losing the heart of the defense Tim Krumrie, the Bengals ended the third quarter with something that would have been the highlight of the game if not how the game ended. The former third round pick waited for the blocks and went 93-yards for the touchdown, sending Cincy a breath of championship. It gave the Bengals a lead which they held onto until the famous Joe Montana drive that led to a 49ers win with 34 seconds remaining in the game.
1. The Freezer Bowl
One of the coldest moments in history. The second coldest game in NFL history gets the top spot of this list. The game that sent the Bengals to their first Super Bowl is the greatest memory for Cincy fans and let’s explore why.
The Bengals had finished 12-4 in the regular season and were the number one seed in the AFC. While the Chargers were seeded third, they held probably the most explosive offense in the league with three future members of the Hall of Fame, QB Doug Flutie (college and Canadian sports), WR Charlie Joiner, and TE Kellen Winslow Sr. Even though the Bengals had beaten the Chargers 40-17 in the regular season, Many expected this to be a tight playoff game with both quarterbacks slinging it all over the field.
Well, the game turned extremely lopsided. MVP quarterback Ken Anderson dismantled the San Diego Chargers defense going 14 of 22 for 161 yards and two touchdowns. The defense was able to get two interceptions and only allow one score as the Bengals win the coldest game they have ever played in, 27-7. The Chargers were able to run a little and throw one touchdown, but it was clear the cold was getting to them.
Bengalmania also took over the fans. The stadium was packed with fans covered in orange and black jackets and gloves. As they were all season because of the success of the Bengal’s offense and stout 3-4 defense. No one was more excited about a birth to the Super Bowl than the fans in Riverfront Stadium that day.