In head coach Marvin Lewis' third season, the Bengals returned to the playoffs, winning the AFC North Division title with an 11-5 record. But Cincinnati lost 31-17 to Pittsburgh in a Wild Card round playoff game, the first postseason game at Paul Brown Stadium, and QB Carson Palmer's postseason was regrettably short. Palmer, who posted a 101.1 regular-season passer rating, a Bengals record at the time, was lost to a serious knee injury on the club's second offensive snap in the playoff game, downed by former Bengal Kimo von Oelhoffen. On the play, Palmer had launched a 66-yard completion to WR Chris Henry. In the regular season, the team won its first four games, including an 88-29 point margin in the first three. The Bengals clinched the division title in Game 14, with a 41-17 victory at Detroit. A number of club individual single-season records were set, including two that still stand through 2017 — 1458 rushing yards by HB Rudi Johnson and 10 INTs by CB Deltha O'Neal. Five Bengals were voted to the Pro Bowl, the largest Cincinnati contingent since the 1989 team placed six. The five were Palmer, O'Neal, OT Willie Anderson, K Shayne Graham and WR Chad Johnson. The season's home crowds included the top four attendance figures in franchise history to that time, headed by 66,104 for the Bengals-Steelers game on Oct. 23. Two notable Bengals "voices" passed away in '05. Phil Samp, the team's radio play-by-play man from 1968-90, died on March 10, and Tom Kinder Sr., the stadium public address announcer from 1968-2004, died on April 10.
The atmosphere was super-charged at Paul Brown Stadium as the AFC North Champion Bengals made their first postseason appearance in 15 years. But Cincinnati was dealt a devastating blow on its second offensive play, as QB Carson Palmer was lost to a serious knee injury while completing his first NFL postseason pass — a club postseason-record 66 yards to WR Chris Henry. Backup QB Jon Kitna took over for Palmer and helped Cincinnati earn a 17-14 halftime lead, but Pittsburgh owned the second half. The Bengals' offense had just six first downs and 105 net yards in the final two periods and failed to score another point. The Steelers used a botched snap on a Bengals FG attempt and two INTs thrown by Kitna to control the second half and claim the first-ever postseason meeting between the divisional rivals. Pittsburgh, which finished second to the Bengals in the AFC North and entered the playoffs as No. 6-seeded Wild Card, went on to win Super Bowl XL.