TDBH: Limping Bengals’ valiant Coliseum stand falls to Raiders in AFC semi

Posted Jan 12, 2018

This Day in Bengals History - January 13, 1991

LOS ANGELES - It is forever known as the “Curse of Bo,” game, but today’s 20-10 loss to the Raiders in an AFC divisional playoff stands as one of Bengals head coach and amateur magician Sam Wyche’s greatest acts. Despite a disappearing offensive line riddled with injuries and a flu bug that multiples to strike offensive stars Boomer Esiason and James Brooks, among others, Wyche nearly pulls a rabbit out of his playbook in a 10-10 game with 11: 49 left. But on third-and-20 Raiders quarterback Jay Schroeder hits wide receiver Tim Brown for 26 yards and the Bengals never recover. Three plays later tight end Ethan Horton gets a step on linebacker Leon White and Schroeder floats it out there for a 41-yard TD kill shot with 8:52 left that ends the Bengals’ dream of a rematch against the Bills in next week’s AFC  title game in Buffalo. “This was a game we could have won,” says Esiason after his close-to-the-vest 104 yards on 15 passes. “They made two more plays than we did.” And the hot stove argument is on. Could the Bengals have got those two plays and more if Wyche opens up the offense?

But as Esiason says in the locker room, now is not the time or place to criticize Wyche for going conservative. It’s the only way he can stay in a game without perennial Pro Bowl left tackle Anthony Munoz (rotator cuff) and starting left guard Bruce Reimers (ankle), and right guard Ken Moyer moving to left and Paul Jetton coming off the bench to play right. So Wyche goes with the smoke and mirrors. “In talking to Howie Long and Bob Golic after the game,” says center Bruce Kozerski of the Raider defensive middle, “they didn’t know what the heck was going on. We confused them in our run blocking and pass protection.” Even though the line is revamped, even though their top two rushers are reduced (1,000-yard rusher Brooks) or out (Harold Green), the Bengals rush for 4.3 yards per carry on 29 lugs, 11 by Ickey Woods for 73 yards in his last big game. Brooks, who throws up on the field in pregame, is a warrior. Earlier in the week he says he’s not playing with a dislocated left thumb, but he tries it on 11 carries for 26 yards and his only catch is an over-the-head 22-yard grab on third-and-four. “That still hurts,” says Brooks, who wears a cast in the game. “They were afraid to throw it to me.”

As well as the Bengals run it, the Raiders run it twice as well as they always seem to do against the Bengals with 235 yards on more than seven per bolt.  Last month in the Raiders’ 24-7 win out here, the great Bo Jackson strafes them for 117 yards, 90 on one of his explosive Jim Brown bursts that seem to come from a scat back rather than a power back. He’s headed there again today on the second snap of the second half on a pitch wide right for 34 yards. The play ends on an innocuous tackle by Bengals linebacker Kevin Walker at the L.A. sidelines and Jackson leaves the game but isn’t limping. It turns out to be the final play of his career with what is a dislocated hip. The Bengals haven’t won a post-season game since, but what’s forgotten is that this is the day the other Raiders running back, Marcus Allen, returns from Al Davis Exile and begins his journey to the Hall of Fame with 140 yards on 21 carries. It’s Allen’s best game in five years and he gets the Raiders to Buffalo with 79 yards on 10 second-half carries. “Bo is their big play man. We knew Marcus really couldn’t hurt us with his speed,” says Bengals defensive lineman David Grant, another flu carrier. “But they just kept pounding and pounding away _ we’re not used to this heat _ I think that had something to do with it. It takes a lot out of you.” On the season’s fourth trip to the Coast, the magic runs out of gas.




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