Is this the year the Bengals’ playoff win drought ends? Longtime suffering fans hope so

Pastor Michael Bailey and his wife, Patsy, have attended all home Bengals games for years. They will be in Paul Brown Stadium today when the Bengals face the Raiders in an AFC Wild Card game. SUBMITTED PHOTO

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Pastor Michael Bailey and his wife, Patsy, have attended all home Bengals games for years. They will be in Paul Brown Stadium today when the Bengals face the Raiders in an AFC Wild Card game. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Team hasn’t won a playoff game since 1991, the longest streak in the NFL

Thirty-one years ago, the last time the Cincinnati Bengals won a playoff game, three players on the current 53-player roster were alive, head coach Zac Taylor was 7 and Joe Burrow’s parents probably were still dating.

Since that 41-14 victory over the Houston Oilers in the 1990 AFC Wild Card game on Jan. 6, 1991, the Bengals have lost eight consecutive playoff games, including twice to the hated Pittsburgh Steelers.

Longtime suffering Bengals fans are hoping this is the year the franchise stops the 31-year playoff drought, the longest in the NFL.

The Bengals, 10-7 and AFC North champs, face the Las Vegas Raiders, 10-7, at 4:30 p.m. today at Paul Brown Stadium in one of the AFC Wild Card games. The visiting Bengals beat the Raiders 32-13 on Nov. 21.

‘You ain’t seen nothing yet’

Pastor Michael Bailey, a season ticket holder for eight years and a fan since the Bengals opened play in 1968, looks at being a diehard football fan to living life.

“We all have struggles,” the Middletown pastor said. “There are victories, there are deserts and there are droughts. You just have to keep fighting for the win.”

Bailey, 68, who attends every home game with his wife of 48 years Patsy, said the Bengals’ success is due to two players, Burrow and rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase “growing up together.”

Their youth and talent give Bailey hope for this postseason and for years to come.

“You ain’t seen nothing yet,” he said.

Bailey was 37 the last time the Bengals walked off winners in the postseason. A win today, he said, means “one more Who-Dey.”

‘There have been some hard days’

Dirk Allen, director of admissions and media relations for Badin High School, was 35 and sports editor of the Hamilton JournalNews the last time the Bengals won a playoff game. His father gave him Bengals tickets for Christmas 1967 and he’s been a season ticket holder ever since.

“It’s been a heck of an enjoyable season with some ups and downs,” said Allen, who bet the Bengals would win more than 6.5 games this season when he was vacationing in Las Vegas. “I love the Bengals, but there have been some hard days.”

Hard days that lasted more than three decades.

The Bengals are 5-14 overall in the playoffs, 1-8 in Wild Card games, 2-4 in Division games, 2-0 in AFC Championship games and, of course, 0-2 in Super Bowls. Thanks Joe Montana.

Allen thinks this team is different than previous Bengals. He called Burrow “the real deal” and Chase “the right draft pick.”

How will Allen feel if he witnesses a Bengal victory today?

“Relief,” he said.

‘They just need to win one playoff game’

Bill “Seg” Dennison, 63, has been a Bengals fan most of his life and now covers the team for WLW 700 where he has worked since 1979.

He drives every morning from his home in Middletown to the station in Cincinnati. He said the vibe is different this season in the Queen City. Fans aren’t debating which college player to draft or whether to fire the head coach. They’re talking about the playoffs.

“It’s been absolutely nuts all year long,” said Dennison, who does a live Bengals pre-game remote. “Like a fever pitch. They just need to win one playoff game and maybe go on a deep run.”

He believes Burrow has the offensive weapons and the defense is good enough to win in the postseason.

“Stars are all over the place,” he said.

‘It still haunts me’

Dennis Vitori passed down his love of the Bengals to his daughter and she’s passing it down to her sons.

They have attended Bengals games as a family for decades, including the famous “Freezer Bowl” when wind chill temperatures dropped to minus 37 degrees at Riverfront Stadium, the coldest in NFL history. The Bengals beat the San Diego Chargers, 27-7, on Jan. 10, 1982.

Ami Vitori remembers the pipes froze in the stadium so there was no water. That meant no toilets.

“That was big for me back then,” said Ami, 8, at the time.

She’s hoping for warmer weather, running water and another Bengals season not flushed down the drain this year.

On Jan. 22, 1989, Ami celebrated her 15th birthday by watching the San Francisco 49ers beat the Bengals, 20-16, in Super Bowl XXIII.

“It still haunts me,” the 47-year-old said. “It was the most painful of all losses.”

She was a senior at Middletown High School the last time the Bengals won a playoff game. After she moved to Los Angeles she tried every Sunday to find a sports bar showing the Bengals game. When the team made the playoffs, she flew home.

“I grew up with the Bengals being good,” she said. “It’s been brutal lately, but I never gave up even in those Jeff Blake years.”

Her father Dennis Vitori started attending Bengals games with his good friend Tom Blake in 1968. They watched games together for decades, including both Bengals Super Bowl appearances.

Blake died in 2020, but Vitori has remained loyal to the Bengals. He will sit in the Club Seats today with his wife, daughter and 11-year-old grandson, Marco.

“It’s been tough being a Bengals fan,” said Vitori, who has 43 the last time Cincinnati won in the postseason.

‘These are not your Bungals’

Bob Urban, 73, of Wayne Twp., has been a Bengals fan since their first season in 1968 and a season ticket holder since 2009.

He has been critical of the team in the past, writing letters to team owner Mike Brown voicing his displeasure with the product on and off the field.

“Mike Brown is no Paul Brown is the simplest way I can put it,” he said, comparing the son to his father.

But he likes what he has seen this season: “They have a young coach with a vision. Smart and speedy players. I think the team chemistry has become obvious on the field. These are not your ‘Bungals.’ I would not be looking forward to playing the Bengals.”

Urban coached basketball and football at Edgewood and Madison high schools. He has been around sports his entire life and he’s looking forward to attending the playoff game with his son, Andy, 39, who can’t remember the last playoff win.

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Marco Kimener was all smiles after he tossed a football on the field at Paul Brown Stadium with quarterback Andy Dalton. Dalton gave him the football. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Marco Kimener was all smiles after he tossed a football on the field at Paul Brown Stadium with quarterback Andy Dalton. Dalton gave him the football. SUBMITTED PHOTO

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Marco Kimener was all smiles after he tossed a football on the field at Paul Brown Stadium with quarterback Andy Dalton. Dalton gave him the football. SUBMITTED PHOTO

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This Middletown family was all smiles at a Bengals game this season at Paul Brown Stadium. Ami Vitori is pictured with two of her sons, Marco, 11, and Hutton, 6. SUBMITTED PHOTO

This Middletown family was all smiles at a Bengals game this season at Paul Brown Stadium. Ami Vitori is pictured with two of her sons, Marco, 11, and Hutton, 6. SUBMITTED PHOTO

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This Middletown family was all smiles at a Bengals game this season at Paul Brown Stadium. Ami Vitori is pictured with two of her sons, Marco, 11, and Hutton, 6. SUBMITTED PHOTO


HOW TO WATCH

WHAT: AFC Wildcard Game, Las Vegas Raiders (10-7) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (10-7)

WHEN: 4:30 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati

HOW TO WATCH: NBC

HOW TO LISTEN: 700 WLW, ESPN 1530 and 102.7 WEBN

LINE: Bengals favored by 6.5 points

WEATHER FORECAST: Snow showers, high of 35 degrees

BENGALS PLAYOFF HISTORY SINCE 1990

1990: Wild Card; Cincinnati 41, Houston 14; Division: Los Angeles 20, Cincinnati 10

2005: Wild Card: Pittsburgh 31, Cincinnati 17

2009: Wild Card: New York 24, Cincinnati 14

2011: Wild Card: Houston 31, Cincinnati 10

2012: Wild Card: Houston 19, Cincinnati 13

2013: Wild Card: San Diego 27, Cincinnati 10

2014: Wild Card: Indianapolis 26, Cincinnati 10

2015: Wild Card: Pittsburgh 18, Cincinnati 16

2021: Wild Card: Las Vegas vs. Cincinnati

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