I’d be willing to bet that there’s not a single player in the Bengals locker room that knows that David Shula was once the team’s head coach. Or that Gary Reasons embarrassed him by tugging on his cap on the sideline during a Monday Night Football game.
Additionally, if you made a reference to Gus Frerotte’s left-handed interception or Corey Dillon’s desire to flip burgers to a member of this year’s team you would be greeted with a blank stare.
In other words, the 2012 Bengals have nothing to do with the team’s struggles in previous decades. Perhaps Christmas would be a good time to look at the present instead of the past.
The Bengals are going to playoffs for the third time in the last four years, making them one of only seven teams that can make that claim. The last three drafts alone have produced Geno Atkins, Clint Boling, Andy Dalton, Carlos Dunlap, A.J. Green, Jermaine Gresham, Marvin Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick, Mohamed Sanu, Kevin Zeitler, and others. And after starting the season 3-5 with a four game losing streak, the Bengals have won six of their last seven to make the playoffs for the second straight season.
“It’s big man,” said nine-year veteran Robert Geathers. “For this franchise to do it back-to-back is a stepping stone. We’ve got something to build on.”
“It’s big for us,” said Andy Dalton. “We had to come out and get a win in this one – especially with all of the things that were on the line. It feels great to be where we are right now.”
“I am very, very proud of the Bengals,” said Adam Jones. “I’m happy to be here and it’s been a good ride.”
Last year the Bengals needed help on the final Sunday of the regular season to squeeze into the playoffs, but this year, Cincinnati not only earned a return to the postseason by winning in Pittsburgh but sent the Steelers packing in the process.
“Our young players should never forget this,” said Reggie Nelson. “They’ve been beating us for the last few years and it ought to feel good for our players to get this goal achieved. That’s big when you come into somebody else’s house and win a big football game.”
“These are the games that I live for,” said Jones. “It was probably the most exciting game I ever played. When they played their music going into the fourth quarter, I just got a rush thinking, ‘We’re going to win this sucker and shut the crowd up.’ ”
The win ended the Bengals 29-year streak of not going to the playoffs in consecutive seasons. The next demon to exorcise is to record the franchise’s first playoff win since 1990. Perhaps that won’t happen in the next few weeks, but with Cincinnati’s talented young nucleus, that day is coming soon.
“These guys don’t have doubt in the back of their mind,” said Geathers. “We believe that we can win because we have a lot of good football players on the team. You just have to go out there and get it done.”
“We’re excited to get to the playoffs, but it’s just the beginning,” said Domata Peko.
“We have more football to play,” said Marvin Lewis. “That’s the thing – we set our goals high and we’re going to keep battling.”
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