The top five playoff heartbreaks in Cincinnati Bengals history

    Joe Montana. Vontaze Burfict. Kimo von Oelhoffen. These are the names that NFL playoff nightmares are made of for the Cincinnati Bengals.

    If every playoff game were the Conference Championships, the Cincinnati Bengals would have a warehouse full of Lombardi Trophies. The Bengals, who visit the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, have never lost in the AFC Championship Game. Unfortunately for fans in Southwest Ohio, they’re 5-14 in all other rounds — including 0-2 in the Super Bowl.

    What are the Cincinnati Bengals’ five most gutting playoff losses?

    This is the 15th time the Cincinnati Bengals have made the playoffs in the team’s 54 seasons. All previous 14 times ended in heartache. But not all losses are equal. Some are simply painful. Others are soul-sucking. Here is our list of the Bengals’ worst of the worst.

    Super Bowl XXIII, Jan. 22, 1989: 49ers 20, Bengals 16

    This isn’t just the worst loss in franchise history. It’s one of the worst beats in NFL history.

    A game so epic it’s got its own catchphrase: “The Drive.”

    Just saying those words conjures up vivid images in any sports fan’s mind — Joe Montana drilling a pass between two Bengals defenders, then throwing his hands up in celebration.

    It has since become perhaps the signature moment in NFL history. But a lot of work — or choking, depending on your perspective — was needed to get that point.

    The Bengals led 16-13 with 3:04 remaining despite largely getting outplayed. And the odds were long for the Niners when they took over on their own 8. But Montana sliced up Cincinnati’s defense on a 12-play, 92-yard touchdown drive that took 2 minutes, 46 seconds. The last of those 12 plays? Montana’s 10-yard touchdown pass to John Taylor.

    Simply gutting.

    Super Bowl XVI, Jan. 24, 1982: 49ers 26, Bengals 21

    The first Super Bowl meeting between these teams didn’t have quite the same drama as the second one, but it still felt terrible for the Bengals and their fans. After dispatching the Bills and Chargers in the Divisional Round and Conference Championship, the Bengals were basically a coin flip to beat the 49ers at the Pontiac Silverdome, according to oddsmakers.

    But the Bengals trailed 20-0 at halftime and could never make it a game, thanks largely to their 4 turnovers and 8 penalties. That showing kicked off a pitiful stretch in which the Bengals lost 11 of their next 14 playoff games — an ignominious streak that has only been broken by Joe Burrow’s greatness.

    Wild Card Round, Jan. 9, 2016: Steelers 18, Bengals 16

    It’s one thing to get beat. It’s another to totally embarrass a franchise and its fans. This one falls in the second category. The Bengals didn’t just lose. They lost in one of the ugliest showings in playoff history.

    The Bengals were one of the most complete teams in the NFL in 2015 — seventh in offensive efficiency (5.7 yards per play), 10th in defensive efficiency (5.3), fifth in point differential (8.8). But none of that mattered when Andy Dalton went out due to a broken thumb.

    With AJ McCarron under center, the offense was held scoreless for the first three quarters before putting up 16 straight to take a 1-point lead late in the fourth. That’s when things started getting weird. On the Steelers’ next play, the Bengals picked off backup Landry Jones, a play that should have sealed the game.

    But Jeremy Hill fumbled right back to the Steelers, and then the Bengals’ defense absolutely imploded. Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones committed inexcusable personal fouls on the same play, setting up a 35-yard Chris Boswell game-winning field goal with 14 seconds left. Yikes.

    Wild Card Round, Jan. 8, 2005: Steelers 31, Bengals 17

    Some losses wreck a season. Others wreck a franchise. This one was a franchise-wrecker. The Bengals were a team on the rise and a dark-horse Super Bowl pick with Carson Palmer under center. But it all went to crap for the AFC North champs five minutes in — Steelers defensive lineman Kimo von Oelhoffen hit Palmer’s left knee, shredding his ACL and MCL.

    The injury was devastating. It took a decade for Palmer to play at that level again. And by then, he was long gone, having forced his way out of Cincinnati in 2011. A promising era of Bengals football effectively ended on one play.

    “Earlier in the year, Cincinnati spanked us,” von Oelhoffen told the Cincinnati Enquirer in 2015. “It was just a few games before that playoff game. Carson was on a role. He just came off like two 300, 400-yard games. It was going to be a dogfight.

    “Both teams were right there. We had a little bit of a better record (against Cincinnati), but they beat us the second game. Carson getting hurt was a factor. That kid should have gotten to play. He earned the right to play. With him in the game, that (playoff game) was anyone’s game. I would have liked to see how that game would have played out with Carson. It would have been fun.”

    Wild Card Round, Jan. 5, 2014: Chargers 27, Bengals 10

    The Carson Palmer Era gave way to the Andy Dalton Era, but the heartbreak stayed the same. The Bengals were AFC North champions in 2013 on the backs of a legit top-five defense. That defense lived up to its billing early on Wild Card Weekend, as the Bengals went into the locker room up 10-7 after Mike Nugent boomed through a 46-yard field goal at the gun.

    But that would be the last points Cincinnati would score. Their second half drives ended punt-fumble-interception-interception-downs-downs-end of regulation. And Dalton, with 3 turnovers, was a big part of the problem.

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