TDBH: Specialists nearly make Bengals Super in 20-16 heartbreak

Posted Jan 21, 2018

This Day in Bengals History - January 22, 1989

MIAMI - It figures. In a duel between Boomer Esiason’s NFL MVP trophy from Cincinnati and Joe Montana's two Super Bowl rings from San Francisco, the only touchdown scored for the first 75 minutes tonight in Super Bowl XXIII is by a career special-teamer that never returned a kick all the way before '88 or since. And for good measure the smallest man on the field stands to swipe the biggest prize when Bengals kicker Jim Breech coolly drills his third field goal of the game on a 40-yarder with 3:20 left that gives the Bengals a euphoric 16-13 lead and Breech the game MVP. That is, of course, until Montana goes 92 yards in 11 excruciating plays capped by his 10-yard arrow to wide receiver John Taylor for a touchdown on his only catch of the night with 34 seconds left. Is there no end to the pain? 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice has 11 catches that tie Bengals tight end Dan Ross’ Super Bowl record he sets seven years ago in Detroit. Rice’s 215 yards are enough to pluck the MVP from Breech.

But go back to how good it feels late in the third quarter. Running back Stanford Jennings has just raced 93 yards to return the second-ever Super Bowl kickoff for a touchdown and the Bengals have overcome a crippling injury to Pro Bowl nose tackle Tim Krumrie and the shocking Super Eve drug suspension of fullback Stanley Wilson to lead the favored Niners, 13-6, heading into the fourth quarter before a bewildered crowd at Joe Robbie Stadium trying to digest the stunning events of what NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, architect of the Super Bowl, will later call it the most exciting one of them all. Krumrie, the heart and soul of the Bengals 3-4 defense that shocks the world this night by bottling up the Hall of Fame duo of Montana and Rice, breaks both major bones in his left leg in one of the most grotesque moments ever caught on television on just the 13th play of the game. Despite the pain, Krumrie, the bloody-nosed, dog-earred throwback, refuses to leave the locker room until he sees his teammates at halftime and tells guys like defensive end Jason Buck "to play your hearts out." "Tim Krumrie's injury was crucial to us because he is the centerpiece of our defense," says head coach Sam Wyche. "When we lost him, we lost our best tackler. (Rookie backup) David Grant played a whale of a game, but you always miss a star." Wilson isn't a star, but he's an integral part of the Bengals No. 1 offense and when the news breaks this morning that he has been banned from the biggest game of his life for drugs, the offense responds sluggishly.  “A tragedy,” is all Paul Brown can say after the game, knowing Wilson is probably done for life in the league.

On to this stage steps the 26-year-old Jennings, a third-round pick out of Furman in 1984. He waits at the goal line with Ira Hillary with 50 seconds left in the third quarter of a game San Francisco's Mike Cofer has just tied at 6 with a 32-yard field goal. Jennings' wife, Kathy, just gave birth to the couple's first child Saturday night back in Cincinnati, about the time Wilson was destroying his life. Now Jennings writes his own bit of history when he repeats history from earlier in the season. He broke up a close game in Kansas City on a 98-yard touchdown return, about the time the Bengals changed their return scheme. With defenders blowing up returns by circling the wedge and making tackles from behind, the Bengals resort to more of a drive blocking system. At about his own 20, Jennings finds a hole up the middle formed by the wedge of (left to right) tight end Jim Riggs, linebacker Leo Barker, tackle David Douglas and offensive lineman Jim Rourke. The Niners' Terry Greer grabs him at the 5, but they sprawl into the end zone and the Bengals are now 15 minutes and 34 seconds from winning it all. "It was just a matter of them getting on their blocks," says Jennings, one of the most respected men in the locker room. "I think it gave us a little bit of a lift for a little while. It would have been great with a victory, but without that it's hard to give it much." Triumph and tragedy in a day the Bengals go full circle. "That one was for Kelsey," Jennings says with eyes glistening in a locker room of tears.



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