TDBH: Bengals clinch Central in Steel den

Posted Dec 12, 2017

This Day in Bengals History - December 13, 1981

PITTSBURGH - Tomorrow’s souvenir-like edition of The Cincinnati Enquirer blares today’s story on top of its flag in an orange shaded story, “Bengals AFC Central Division Champs,” complete with the club’s new striped helmet logo. Bengals 17, Steelers 10. The photo says it all as linebackers Jim LeClair and Glenn Cameron hoist head coach Forrest Gregg on their shoulders going off the field.  “It was whoever wanted in the picture the worst, I guess,” says Cameron of the decision to lift Gregg, the Hall of Fame tackle. “I really only want to do that one more time if things work out. I don’t want to get a hernia.” It is the first Bengals playoff team not coached by Paul Brown, and the club’s founder, owner and general manager is one of the first to pay his respects to Gregg. He squeezes through the reporters to shake Gregg’s hand and is saying something along the lines about clinching the title “here in Steel Curtain Country,” but the papers say he stops in mid-sentence and backs away with, “That’s all I’m going to say.”

Brown knows the day belongs to Gregg and so does left guard Dave Lapham. Lapham shows the analytical skill that will serve him well in the future as the Bengals legendary radio man. “It all started with him,” Lapham says, “He was what we needed. It’s been said a million times. The discipline. The conditioning. He made us get into shape mentally and physically and made us believe we could win games again. Just unbelievable leadership on his part.” Quarterback Ken Anderson’s touchdown for the winning points is thrown against a blitz to wide receiver Steve Kreider, set up on an interception by linebacker Reggie Williams off a Mark Malone pass. The Bengals deny one of the last gasps of the Steelers dynasty that won four Super Bowls with a performance that has typified their dominating season. They are now 11-4 and have secured the franchise’s first home playoff game ever with a defense that held Pittsburgh to a season-low 207 yards and an offense that gets 215 passing yards from the courageous and limping Anderson gutting through a sore toe. The Steelers look ‘70s old and the Bengals are ‘80s hot. Pittsburgh quarterback Terry Bradshaw can’t play with a broken hand. Another future Hall of Famer, linebacker Jack Lambert, is bloodied in the locker room with a cut hand and lip and explaining how he made what the headline says is “the bonehead play" of the game. Rocky Bleier, the old Steelers running back, is now a broadcaster and is one of the first to interview Anderson after the game on the field.

Lambert stays in front of his locker answering the insightful and the ones that incite on a day Franco Harris, John Stallworth, Mel Blount and Joe Greene don’t talk to the media. “If Kenny Anderson can stay healthy,” Lambert says, “they could go all the way.”  In the visitors’ locker room, Gregg is being asked much nicer questions. One concerns his ride in from the field. “I felt like a feather in the wind,” he says. The Bengals float back to Cincinnati on the clouds before landing at the Greater Cincinnati Northern Kentucky Airport at 6:40 p.m. The Enquirer reports that at 5:45 p.m. the customs inspection room of the international facility “was jammed. By six the crowd was bulging at about 2,000 with oversized foam rubber hands,  pennants, pom-poms, knitted berets with 'Go Bengals,' " and several handmade signs. Anderson is overwhelmed as he speaks into a microphone that can’t be heard. “What a great feeling,” he says over and over.



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