Looking back: Bengals ended another playoff drought for their first postseason victory 40 years ago

Ken Anderson threw a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Chris Collinsworth to beat the Bills in 1982

The Cincinnati Bengals ended a 31-year and eight-game playoff drought Saturday by beating the Las Vegas Raiders 26-19 at Paul Brown Stadium. Forty years ago, they faced a 13-year drought and three-game playoff losing streak when they played the Buffalo Bills in the first round.

Here’s a look back at that game, which the Bengals won 28-21 on Jan. 3, 1982, in front of a crowd of 55,420 at Riverfront Stadium, from the Dayton Daily News archives:

1. Long-awaited victory: The Bengals played their first season in 1968 and made the playoffs for the first time in their third season, 1970. They lost 17-0 on the road to the Baltimore Colts, who would go on to beat the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl V, in the playoffs that season.

Three years later, in 1973, the Bengals returned to the playoffs and lost 34-16 to another eventual Super Bowl champion, the Miami Dolphins, at the Orange Bowl. The postseason losing continued in 1975 with a 31-28 loss to the Oakland Raiders at Oakland Coliseum.

Entering the 1981 season, the Bengals had played 13 seasons in the NFL and had six winning seasons but no playoff victories.

2. First home game: The AFC divisional playoff game against the Bills was the Bengals’ first home playoff game. The Bengals finished 12-4 in the regular season in 1981 and won the AFC Central Division by four games over the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8).

3. Rematch: The Bengals beat the Bills 27-24 in overtime in Week 4 on Sept. 27, 1981, at Riverfront Stadium thanks to a 28-year field goal by Jim Breech, then in his third season in the NFL and in the second of 13 seasons he would play for the Bengals.

Credit: Michael Conroy

Credit: Michael Conroy

4. Back-and-forth game: Touchdown runs by Charles Alexander, who ran for a season-high 72 yards in the game, and Pete Johnson in the first quarter gave the Bengals a 14-0 lead. The Bills tied the game with touchdown runs by Joe Cribbs in the second and third quarters. A 20-yard run by Johnson put the Bengals back on top with 6:56 left in the third.

Again the Bills rallied to tie the score at 21-21, but Ken Anderson threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to rookie Chris Collinsworth to give the Bengals the lead for good with 10:39 to play in the game.

“Here we are playing the biggest game of our lives in front of a national television audience,” Collinsworth said, “and we weren’t the least bit nervous. Kenny is so cool out there you forget about the pressure. I felt like I was playing a game in somebody’s big ol’ backyard.”

Anderson, then in his 11th season, completed 14 of 21 passes for 192 yards.

“The reason we are where we are is No. 14,” coach Forrest Gregg said.

“He’s the top quarterback in the game,” Bills coach Chuck Knox said. “We couldn’t force him into a single turnover.”

5. Fortunate call: The Bengals benefitted from an officiating error in their victory Saturday against the Raiders, and there was also a call that went their way in this game.

Field judge Don Hakes made a late delay-of-game call against the Bills as they were driving for the tying touchdown in the fourth quarter. The Bills had run the play and gained 6 yards, getting a first down at the Bengals’ 14-yard line. Hakes said it wasn’t a late call.

“It was just difficult to make myself heard,” he told Marty Williams, of the Dayton Daily News, later that night when called at home.

The Bengals had luck on their side a week later when Mother Nature gave them an extra home-field advantage in the famous “Freezer Bowl.” They beat the San Diego Chargers 27-7 at Riverfront Stadium. The temperature dipped to minus-9, and wind gusts of 20-35 miles per hour made it feel any worse.

Two weeks after that, on Jan. 24, 1982, the Bengals got to play indoors at the Pontiac Silverdome but lost 26-21 to the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XVI.

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