Moments of Heartbreak: Cincinnati Bengals – 2015 Wild Card Game
Who are the Cincinnati Bengals?
The Bengals were founded in 1966 as the final team in the American Football League (AFL) before the AFL-NFL merger. They were actually founded by Paul Brown, who was Cleveland’s head coach up until 1963, when he was let go. After he was let go, he had interest in starting up his own franchise in Ohio. He ended up going with Cincinnati and worked out a deal for a new stadium.
The Bengals were born.
The Bengals are one of 13 teams left in the NFL that have not won a Super Bowl. They did win two AFC championships in 1981 and 1988, but lost both Super Bowls. However, on paper, the Bengals have been one of the more successful teams of the last decade, with 6 playoff appearances and 3 division championships. It hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows though. The Bengals have had a tough time winning playoff games despite being a one of the better teams in the NFL. They have not won a playoff game since 1990, more than 25 years ago. The 2015 Cincinnati Bengals were looking to change that and were within minutes of doing so, which is this week’s topic of discussion.
The 2015 Season
In 2015, the Cincinnati Bengals had one of the most talented rosters in the NFL. Utilizing a running back by committee with Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill, the Bengals put up over 1,500 rushing yards. Jeremy Hill was tied for the most rushing touchdowns in the league. They also had a 1,000 yard receiver in AJ Green, who was top 10 in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. Let’s not forget Reggie Nelson, who led the league in interceptions with 8. And last but definitely not least, the Bengals had some of the best pass rushers in the league with All-Pro Geno Atkins and Pro Bowler Carlos Dunlap. They were poised for success.
The Bengals had their best start in franchise history in 2015. They rattled off 8 straight wins to start the season 8-0, before losing to the Houston Texans in week 10. They finished the season with a 12-4 record, clinching a playoff spot for another franchise record 5th straight season. They also clinched their 4th AFC North division championship (9th division championship if you include their 5 AFC Central Championships). The AFC had a three way tie for the #1 and #2 seed, but the Bengals did not hold the tie breaker, putting them in the wild card against their division rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Unfortunately for the Bengals, the last time they faced the Steelers in week 14, starting quarterback Andy Dalton fractured his thumb on this throwing hand. He would be out for the remainder of the season.