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Bengals Super Bowl 1988: When was the last time the Bengals went to the Super Bowl?

Bengals 3-3 on AFC Championships
Bengals  Chargers AFC
Posted at 3:59 PM, Jan 27, 2022

CINCINNATI — After toppling 85 years of combined history in the last two weeks (31 years without a playoff win, and then a 54-year streak of never winning a playoff game on the road), the Bengals are on the way to the Super Bowl.

Cincinnati has played in two AFC title games before, both at home, and won both - Their victory over Kansas City marks their third victory in three tries in the game in franchise history. Like their most recent victory, those AFC Championship games have been historic, controversial, dramatic and remained part of NFL lore.

Here's a look back at those AFC Championships:

The Freezer Bowl: Cincinnati Bengals 27, San Diego Chargers 7 - January 1982.

In 1982, Cincinnati's win over the San Diego Chargers was the coldest game in NFL history. The game is so historic, it has its own page on History.com. The temperature was -9, but a constant 27 mph wind made for a -59 wind chill. No, that's not a typo: -59.

A week before, the Chargers beat the Miami Dolphins in the AFC Division round 41-38 in overtime. The game was called the Epic in Miami, and for decades was considered the best in NFL history. Played in near tropical heat, the most famous image of the game is Chargers Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow being carried off the field by teammates.

With San Diego coming from California and coming off the Miami game, Cincinnati guard Dave Lapham talked the rest of the offensive line in playing in short sleeves.

"The chargers were from the West Coast, so I thought 'let's use the cold to our advantage and psych them out a little bit,'" Lapham told History.com. "San Diego players were all bundled up with stocking caps under their face masks and hoods and hand warmers. The officials said you could put Vaseline on any exposed skin, so we loaded our arms up. That was an advantage when defenders tried to swipe at you and grab your arms."

Bengals quarterback Kenny Anderson was efficient and the team rolled the Chargers en route to its first ever Super Bowl.

The Cincinnati offensive line wasn't the only one psyching out the Chargers: Fans joined in, too.

Crazed shirtless Bengals fans in -59 degree wind chills
Shirtless Cincinnati Bengals fans are joined by another in a snowmobile suit as they cheer on the Bengals in the AFC championship game against the San Diego Chargers in Cincinnati, Jan. 10, 1982. Temperature at the game was minus 9 degrees. (AP Photo)

The Bengals unfortunately lost to the San Francisco 49ers, 26-21.

The No-Huddle "might be unethical, if not illegal" - Cincinnati Bengals 21, Buffalo Bills 10, January 1989.

Cincinnati had always been a forward-thinking football franchise. Before it was dubbed the West Coast Offense, the system that made stars out of Joe Montana, Steve Young, Terrell Owens, Brett Favre, Jerry Rice and countless others, it was called the Cincinnati Offense.

The system was developed by Bill Walsh while he was an assistant under Paul Brown with the Bengals. Brown was an innovator himself as one of the greatest to ever coach.

Sam Wyche played for Brown and was an assistant under Walsh. When he was hired as Cincinnati's head coach, he brought his taste to innovate with him.

One innovation was the tackle-eligible play, which shocked defenses by using offensive tackle Anthony Munoz as a tight end.

But his biggest contribution was the no-huddle offense.

The idea was to make the defense keep the same set of 11 players on the field and keep the team from substituting.

Today, the no huddle is so common that teams in high school, college and the NFL often run it entire games. In the mid-1980s, attitudes were different: It was considered by some to be criminal to football.

"It is fiendish, the better mousetrap. It might be unethical if not illegal," wrote New York Times reporter Gerald Eskenazi back in 1989.

When the Bengals clinched an AFC Championship game berth against the Buffalo Bills, the no-huddle was a bigger topic during the week than the possible trip to the Super Bowl. Buffalo coach Marv Levy said the intent of the no-huddle was to deceive, which he considered against the rules.

The Bills' biggest issue wasn't the no-huddle, but turnovers. Quarterback Jim Kelly threw three interceptions. Cincinnati rookie running back Ickey Woods rushed 29 times for 102 yards and two touchdowns and the Bengals won a berth to Super Bowl 23.

Two years later, Buffalo made the first of four consecutive Super Bowls with its innovative "K Gun" offense. Kelly called all the plays from the line of scrimmage in a no-huddle offense. Go figure.

The team, however, lost again to the San Francisco 49ers, 20-16, in the Super Bowl.

Cincinnati vs. Kansas City - 27-24, January 2022

The Bengals beat the favorite Kansas City Chiefs in overtime after an interception on the Chiefs opening drive of the extra time. The team marched down the field and set up an Evan McPherson game-winning field goal to go to Super Bowl 56.

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