DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — Still feeling the Super Bowl blues after the Cincinnati Bengals’ AFC Championship loss to the Kansas City Chiefs? Relive one of the Bengals’ best Super Bowl runs to get your spirits up.
The year is 1989 and the Bengals still share Riverfront Stadium with the Cincinnati Reds. HuDey is the beer of choice for any common Bengals fan and none of the top stars of today’s team have even been born yet.
Led by head coach Sam Wyche, the 1988-89 Bengals team went 12-4 in the regular season and is widely considered one of the best teams in franchise history.
The team was star-studded with some of the club’s most memorable players: quarterback Boomer Esiason, Hall of Fame-inducted tackle Anthony Muñoz and running back Ickey Woods among others.
The Bengals beat the Seattle Seahawks 21-13 in the Divisional Round of the playoffs and beat the Buffalo Bills 21-10 in the AFC Conference Championship, paving the way to Super Bowl XXIII.
And even though the road to the Super Bowl was hard-fought, the Bengals still entered The Big Game as the underdogs.
“When all the people tell us we’re not that good, I think we go in the game trying to prove to everyone,” said defensive back Lewis Billups. “It gives us an emotional factor to play better.”
Bengalsmania swept through as fans showed their stripes across Ohio. Bars were decked out in orange and black and retailers sold must-have Bengals memorabilia. The Bengals’ Who Dey chant roared out of Cincinnati and was heard across the country.
“No this is bigger than Christmas, bigger than New Year’s,” said a fan interviewed by 2 NEWS. “This is it, this is what everybody lives for.”
Even with a chip on their shoulders, the Bengals arrived in Florida ready to roar. They were even met by a real-life Bengal Tiger, Maya, at their hotel.
Esiason joined up with the team later at the hotel since he received the Schick Trophy for the NFL’s Most Valuable Player following the Bengals’ 1989 AFC Championship win.
The Bengals wasted no time getting ready for The Big Game. The team went head-first into media day and workouts. Woods and his teammates were even seen doing the beloved “Ickey Shuffle.”
“I can tell the enthusiasm is there and I can tell just everyone is anxious to really get out here and play,” Bengals free safety Solomon Wilcots told 2 NEWS in an interview.
On Sunday, Jan. 22, 1989, the Bengals battled it out against the San Francisco 49ers. Both teams entered Joe Robbie Stadium, now Hard Rock Stadium, with spirits high after weeks of hard work.
The first half of the game was slow, with the 49ers scoring a field goal in the first quarter only to be answered with a Bengals field goal in the second.
The excitement began to pick up after halftime with the scoreboard finally seeing double digits.
In the third quarter, the Bengals were up 13-6 after kicker Jim Breech made a 43-yard field goal and running back Stanford Jennings made a 93-yard kickoff return. The 49ers were only able to put up a field goal.
Hopes were high as the fourth quarter began but the tides shifted toward the 49ers. San Francisco put two touchdowns on the board, breezing past the Bengals, who only managed a field goal.
The 49ers beat the Bengals 20-16.
2 NEWS interviewed Bengals players in the locker room following the Super Bowl loss. One said, “I’m disappointed we lost the game, you know, we lost a Super Bowl ring and that’s the most coveted prize.”
Although the club has yet to win a Lombardi Trophy, the future looks bright for the Bengals.
The new-age team is holding its hopes in Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow, who has led them to two AFC Championship games and even a Super Bowl appearance.
“You learn from every loss just like every win,” said Burrow after the 2022 season. “We will go watch the film, make our corrections, get better.”