These Bengals Teams Should Have Been Super Bowl Bound

Nov 29, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) against the St. Louis Rams at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals won 31-7. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 29, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) against the St. Louis Rams at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals won 31-7. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

The postseason has been cruel to the Cincinnati Bengals. But, there have been teams capable of making the run to the Super Bowl.

The 2017 season is not that far away. Before most Bengals fans can think about getting to Super Bowl LII, there’s the matter of the playoffs. Keeping things in order, the Bengals have to pick up their first postseason victory under Marvin Lewis. When that feat is accomplished, the madness can turn to thoughts of the Big Dance. But, it’s nice to dream. In fact, two Cincinnati teams have had the juice to go all the way. Bad timing, injuries and bad coaching have been the deciding factors in the Bengals Super Bowl quest.

To say the Bengals haven’t had the talent to get to the Promised Land is a joke. Lewis has been at the helm of a few teams that were strong enough to bring a Lombardi to the shores of the Ohio River. But, either dumb fate or the football gods have decided to keep the Orange and Black out of the final showdown.

The 2005 Kneegate Incident

Lewis had been the new sheriff in town for three years when the first brush with postseason infamy arose. After getting the Bengals over the hump with two years of respectability (8-8 in 2003 and 2004), the 2005 team was killer. Lead by the Johnson Twins, the Bengals had one of the most balanced and dynamic offenses in the league. Rudi Johnson rushed for 1,458 yards and Chad Johnson snagged 97 receptions for 1,432 yards and 9 TDs. There was also that guy with the weird name. T.J. Houshmandzadeh hauled in 78 catches for 956 yards.

The whole shebang was headed by Carson Palmer. Say what you want about Palmer, he was a

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beast in 2005. His numbers were off the chart. With a completion percentage of 67.8 and rating of 101.1, Carson finished a close second to Peyton Manning. But, all the sparkling numbers couldn’t help the Bengals get past Pittsburgh in the Wild Card round. Part of the problem was the bend-but-don’t-break defense. It broke at the worst possible moment.

But, the biggest heartbreak of the game (and year) had to be the loss of Palmer. A devastating blow to the knee–from Kimo von Oelhoffen–ended Carson’s night and the Bengals’ chance at advancing. The silence inside Paul Brown Stadium was deafening. The Best Bengals team in years suffered a 31-17 loss. They wouldn’t get another postseason berth until 2009.

PBS Melt With A Side Of Cries

Fast forward ten years to 2015. The Bengals started the year with an 8-0 record and looked like the team to beat in the AFC North. Hue Jackson had the offense humming on all cylinders. Jeremy Hill was in the throes of a sophomore slump but the passing game was on fire. Andy Dalton had found his rhythm with the scheme and was playing lights out. A.J. Green was the cadillac of the wide receiver corps and Tyler Eifert had emerged as a threat downfield. The O-Line was protecting Dalton and he was shredding opposing defenses.

The Bengals D was becoming notorious for keeping teams out of the end zone. Paul Guenther’s Gang ended the regular season a mere tenth of a point behind the Seahawks for least points allowed in the league.

Once again, there was bad juju in the Bengals’ future. Dalton’s bid for MVP came crashing down in Week 14. Andy fractured his thumb, trying to bring down Steelers’ defensive tackle Stephon Tuitt. Wonder Boy AJ McCarron was called upon to finish the season and guided the Bengals to another Division Championship and Wild Card finish. But, it all ended on a rainy Saturday evening under the lights of PBS. Another Super Bowl caliber team stalled because of an injury, questionable coaching and…well, you know the rest.

Next: Offense Or Defense?

A Tale Of Two Teams

Both the 2005 and 2015 Bengals teams were capable of making the journey to the Super Bowl. The 2016 campaign was supposed to be the answer for failing to advance the prior year. Lewis has shown the ability to create units that defy the odds and play beyond what’s on paper. After a 6-9-1 finish last year, this could be his last chance to build and oversee a squad that could bring the silver to Cincinnati. It’s encouraging to get close. But, it’s truly exciting when the trophy gets raised.