The 15 Greatest Wins in Cincinnati Bengals History
I figured today we would look at the 15 biggest wins. The problem with the list is that almost all of them came before 1990. That’s okay, I like living in the past (Not Really).
15) 1968 Cincinnati 24-Denver 10
Why this game you might ask? Very simple: it was the Bengals first win and at the same time, their first regular-season win. For you younger folks, the Bengals’ home stadium at the time was Nippert Stadium. The game was a scoreless tie at halftime, but the Bengals exploded for 24 points in the second half. Behind the passing of QB John Stofa and the running of Paul Robinson, the Bengals’ first points were scored by TE Bob Trumpy on a 58 yard pass from Stofa.
14) 1979 Cincinnati 34-Pittsburgh 10
The Steelers were the defending champs and only had one loss coming into this game. The Bengals were 0-6 and were playing horribly entering the game. The Steelers turned the ball over 9 times to the Bengals defense. Bengals legend Reggie Williams intercepted two passes to help lead a Bengals defense that, on this day, played inspired football.
13) 2003 Cincinnati 24-Kansas City 19
Coming into this game, the Bengals had not been relevant for over a decade. That started to change when they faced Kansas City in 2003. The Chiefs entered at 9-0 and were on a tear through their schedule. The Bengals led by new head coach Marvin Lewis had newfound confidence and Chad Johnson was not afraid to let everybody know, as he had predicted a Bengals win. Peter Warrick was the hero of the day when he helped the Bengals open up a 17-6 led with a punt return TD and helped seal the game with a 77 yard TD pass from Jon Kitna.
12) 2000 Cincinnati 31-Denver 21
Corey Dillon set the NFL single-game rushing record in this game. The Bengals entered the contest winless, while the Broncos were a playoff-contending team. QB Akili Smith was 2-9 for 34 yards. But, of course, the day was saved by Corey Dillon’s record-setting day, as he rushed for 278 yards on 22 carries and two touchdowns.
11) 1989 Cincinnati 61-Houston 7
If you ever thought that there were a chance coaches Sam Wyche and Jerry Glanville could still someday be friends, this game ended all of those hopes. The Bengals offense was flawless on this day, as QB Boomer Esiason threw 4 touchdown passes and the defense was just as good, led by David Fulcher’s three interceptions. The Bengals led 31-0 at the half and 52 at the end of the third quarter in a game that was the last regular home game of the 1989 season. Bengal great Reggie Williams was honored at halftime by the Bengals, as the 1989 season would be his last.
10) 1977 Cincinnati 17-Pittsburgh 10
The Cincinnati Bengals were one of the best teams in the 1970s. The problem was the Steelers were one of the greatest teams of all-time and the Bengals, it seemed every year, needed to beat the Steelers to make the playoffs and they could not get over that hump. That is, until a freezing cold day in 1977. As always, the Bengals needed a win over the Steelers and a win on the final week in Houston and the Bengals would be playoff-bound. This time the Bengals would pull it out.
Cincinnati took the lead on a pick-six by Bengals great Lemar Parrish, but still trailed 10-7 heading into halftime. The Bengals defense owned the second half and the offense won the game behind a Ken Anderson TD pass to Pat Mcinally. This was a day that belonged to the Bengals defense. They totally shut down the Steelers for the entire second half. Unfortunately, the Bengals still missed the playoffs because they lost a close game in Houston on the last week of the season.
9) 1985 Cincinnati 50-Dallas 24
Dallas’ first trip to the Queen City was definitely memorable. Well, maybe not for the Cowboys. The Bengals entered the game with a 6-7 record and were underdogs at Riverfront stadium. The story of this game was the Bengals defensive line of Ross Browner, Eddie Edwards and Tim Krumrie completely taking control of the game from the outset and destroying the Cowboys offensive line. The Bengals offense was devastating as QB Boomer Esiason threw 3 TD passes in a game that was never really in doubt. The Bengals jumped out to a quick 22-0 lead and never looked back.
8) 1981 Cincinnati 27-Seattle 21
Nobody could have known that this game would be the catalyst that would help the Bengals advance to their first Super Bowl. The Seahawks jumped out to a 21-0 first-quarter lead and all looked lost. QB Ken Anderson was pulled for backup third-string QB Turk Schonert and Schonert delivered! Schonert was helped by running backs Pete Johnson and Archie Griffin, who stepped up and had a big final three quarters.
7) 1988 Cincinnati 21-Arizona 14
Much like 1981, this team came out of nowhere and it all started with a character-building win that was led by the defense who had two huge goal-line stands. The last win was a stand in the final seconds of the game. This was a game dominated by the Bengals defense. The Bengals defensive line of Tim Krumrie, Jason Buck, Jim Skow, and Skip McLendon was the catalyst for the two goal-line stands. Linebackers Reggie Williams and Joe Kelly also were instrumental in this season-opening win.
6) 2005 Cincinnati 38-Pittsburgh 31
The Bengals became relevant for the first time in 15 years with this huge road win, which led them to their first divisional title in a decade and a half. Carson Palmer led the high-powered Bengals offense by throwing 3 touchdowns. The biggest play of the game was made by Bengals kick returner Tab Perry, who returned a kickoff all the way back to the Steelers one-yard line, leading to a Rudi Johnson TD run.
5) 1981 AFC Divisional Playoff: Cincinnati 28-Buffalo 21
The first-ever NFL playoff game in Cincinnati, thirteen years after the franchise was born, was definitely worth the wait. The Bengals had won the regular-season meeting between the two teams in overtime and this game was another nail-biter. Surprisingly, the hero of this game was Bengals running back Charles Alexander, who ran for 72 yards including two touchdowns. The crowd may have been the difference in this game, as the Bills completed a huge 4th down pass putting them deep in Bengals territory with time running out. The problem for the Bills was that the crowd was so loud, they couldn’t get the playoff in time and got a delay of game penalty, which was huge. The crowd was so loud that nobody even heard the whistle and saw the flag until the play was over.
4) 1970 Cincinnati 45-Boston 7
The Bengals were in just their third year of existence in 1970 and started the season off the way they were expected to by going 1-6. What happened after that has never been equaled in NFL history, as the Bengals went on to win seven straight games and the AFC Central division crown. They clinched it on the last day of the season as they dominated the Boston Patriots 45-7 in front of a sell-out crowd at Riverfront Stadium.
The Bengals defense stole the show, as they held QB Joe Kapp and the Patriots to 168 yards of total offense. The star of the defense on this day was Bengal legend Ken Riley, who intercepted two passes to help clinch the playoffs for the first time in Bengals history.
3) 1988 Cincinnati 20-Washington 17 (OT)
The most exciting regular-season game in the team’s history, the Bengals needed to win this game to win the AFC Central division title, and the Redskins were the defending World Champions.
With Redskins rookie running back Jamie Morris setting an NFL record for most carries in a game with 45, and quarterback Doug Williams completing 17 of 22 passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns, the Redskins were in a position to head home for the holidays buoyed by a well-played game and a victory.
Washington took possession on its own 21 with the score tied, 17-17, and 8:39 left in regulation.
Seventeen plays later, rookie Chip Lohmiller’s probable game-winning field-goal attempt from 29 yards skipped off the right upright, forcing overtime.
”I guess I had lost hope when they lined up for that field goal,” Cincinnati linebacker Reggie Williams said, ”but I couldn’t let my teammates see how I felt. I kept hoping the impossible would happen, and it did.”
”The wind was swirling from right to left, and I just misjudged how hard it was blowing,” said Lohmiller, who had connected on 10 consecutive attempts before the miss.
At 5:26 of the overtime period, Williams was blind-sided by blitzing safety Bernard Bussey. He fumbled and David Grant recovered it for Cincinnati at the Redskins’ 17. Three plays later, Breech kicked the winner.
With the win, the Bengals clinched a first-round bye. What a lot of people fail to remember is they did not clinch the home-field advantage throughout the playoffs until the next day, when the Colts upset the Bills in Indianapolis.
2) 1988 AFC Championship Game: Cincinnati 21-Buffalo 10
The Bengals scored first on a one-yard Ickey Woods run following a Jim Kelly interception. Kelly answered with four straight completions, including a touchdown pass to Andre Reed to tie the game. After Buffalo’s defense held, a promising Bills drive fell short of scoring when Scott Norwood’s 43-yard kick sailed wide left. Boomer Esiason led the Bengals into Buffalo territory and then found the end zone to give them a 14-7 lead. A Norwood field goal closed the gap to 14-10 at halftime, but that’s as close as it would get.
The Bills’ offense struggled in the second half, failing to convert a third down and only converting two total first downs, as the underrated Bengals defense completely dominated the game. All five second-half drives began inside their own 23-yard line. The Bengals added another Woods touchdown run to push the Bengals’ lead to 21-10, and Kelly threw another pick on a fourth-down attempt in the red zone to Bengals safety David Fulcher.
The best part of this game may have been the week leading up to it, as Bills head coach Marv Levy cried about how the Bengals’ no-huddle offense should not be legal. With the help of Don Shula, the Bengals could not use the no-huddle the way they wanted during this game and were completely banned from using it in the Super Bowl. Of course, Marv Levy would then steal the Bengals offense for his own and proceed to lose four straight Super Bowls and somehow get elected to the hall of fame.
1) 1981 AFC Championship Game: Cincinnati 27-San Diego 7
Nicknamed “The Freezer Bowl”, the coldest game in NFL history was played on January 10th, 1982. Now, before we start on this game, I always hear people say that the Bengals won because of the cold. This is an utterly stupid comment to make when you realize that the Bengals went to San Diego two months before this and actually beat the Chargers even worse in 80-degree weather, 40-17. So if you think the Bengals won because of the weather, that would simply not be the case. The Bengals won because they were the superior team the entire year.
The game was one of the few in NFL history in which the same team kicked off to begin both halves. Cincinnati won the toss and instead of receiving, elected to have the brutally cold wind at their backs to start the game, believing it would neutralize San Diego’s passing game and help the Bengals to build an early lead. The strategy paid off, as Cincinnati built a 10–0 lead in the first quarter. San Diego would score their only touchdown in the second, but gave up another score to the Bengals and trailed 17–7 at halftime. Accordingly, San Diego used its option at the beginning of the second half to receive the kickoff, resulting in Cincinnati kicking off to begin both halves—and in the same direction both times, using their second-half option to again begin the half with the wind at their backs. The Bengals put the game away in the 4th quarter when QB Ken Anderson threw a TD pass to tight end M.L.Harris for the final score of a 27-7 win.