As I type these words, it’s been 22 years, 11 months, and 23 days since the Bengals last playoff win.
(That’s 8,393 days but who’s counting?)
Shoot, Giovani Bernard hadn’t even been born yet.
But you know what? That’s ancient history. These Bengals are one of only six NFL teams to go to the playoffs in four of the last five years and while the current players have little to do with a two-decade dry spell, they are determined to end their own two-year streak.
“Going to the playoffs two straight years and getting beat by Houston was not very fun,” said Domata Peko. “That’s been sitting on our back for a while, so this year we’ve really been focusing on finishing and trying to get over that first round hump. I think this team can do it.”
“We need it,” said Rey Maualuga. “We need it for multiple reasons. It means respect for ourselves, our fans, and our families from the doubters. It’s about that time.”
Their confidence is sky-high after ending the regular season with a 34-17 win over Baltimore. The final score was appropriate because that was the average score at Paul Brown Stadium this year where the Bengals went 8-0.
“I know the history and all that, but we’re here now,” said Michael Johnson. “We want everybody on the same mentality, the same vibe, and the same focus to get where we’re going. We’ve got a great team. Everybody in here believes and we need everybody in the city to believe. Let’s take this thing all the way. I mean it. I believe that in the bottom of my heart and I’m just thankful and happy to be a part of it.”
“Going undefeated at home is one of the goals we set every year and we got it done,” said Peko. “A big shout out to the 12th man out there – The Jungle. The whole stadium was rocking and they make it easy for us.
“This is my eighth season and it was by far the loudest that I’ve heard The Jungle. Even players on the other teams after the games have been saying, ‘Damn – your stadium is pretty loud now.’ And I’m like, ‘Yep. We’ve been rockin’ over here.’”
Last month, Johnson criticized Bengals fans for booing early in the Cleveland game. But he was effusive in his praise for the home crowd following Sunday’s win over Baltimore.
“I was very pleased with the attendance and the way they responded to everything,” Johnson told me. “When it wasn’t going good, nobody got unsettled, nobody booed – they just cheered. We were able to regroup and they did an amazing job for us – especially on defense on third down and fourth down to help us get big stops. We were very appreciative and we’re going to need them out in big numbers for the playoffs, because we’ve got big goals and they’re a part of it.”
After ending the regular season by officially eliminating the defending Super Bowl champs, the Bengals are one of 12 teams that still has a chance to succeed them.
“We didn’t want to give the Ravens a chance to sneak into the playoffs,” said Peko. “We wanted to really go out there and put them to bed. They won the championship last year – their time is up. It’s someone else’s turn. I think it’s our turn.”
“We still have so much more to do and it’s exciting because we haven’t even hit the tip of the iceberg yet,” said Johnson.
It’s time to stop counting the days since their last playoff win and start looking forward to their next one.
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