The Bengals broke the Curse of Bo back in '05 when they made the playoffs for the first time since ending the career of Raiders Would-Have-Been Hall-of-Fame running back Vincent "Bo" Jackson in a 1990 AFC semifinal.
Now's the chance for the Bengals to eliminate the Hex of Bo in their first road playoff game since Jackson's last NFL game on Jan. 13, 1991 in the Los Angeles Coliseum and win Saturday's Wild Card game (4:30 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 5) in Houston.
The karma couldn't be better. The Bengals haven't won a postseason game since inside linebacker Kevin Walker dragged down Jackson on his right sideline on the second snap of the second half. The week before the Bengals beat the last NFL team from Houston when they ripped the Oilers for the second time in three weeks at Riverfront Stadium, 41-14.
"If you'd told me we'd take out Bo Jackson and still lose the game," says Solomon Wilcots, "I wouldn't have believed it."
But it happened. With running back James Brooks's hand in a splint and most of the offense riddled by the flu, the Bengals lost a tight one when future David Klinger backup Jay Schroeder piloted the Raiders to 10 points in the final 6:02 for a 20-10 fourth-quarter comeback victory.
The memories of Bo are hazy at best on a roster whose two oldest players, 32-year-old cornerback Nate Clements and 31-year-old safety Chris Crocker, were preteens when Jackson was an All-Star in two big-league sports.
"I remember a couple of games; but that's it," Crocker says. "Greatest running back that never got to finish his career."
Cornerback Adam Jones, 28, doesn't really remember Jackson playing. But he remembers the industry-changing campaign.
The Bo Curse has become a Bo Hex. The Last stop is Bo No instead of Bo Knows.
Wilcots, one of the league's best broadcasters and an NFL Network staple, was a safety for the Bengals 1990 AFC Central Division champs. He still lives in Cincinnati, as does Walker, a realtor in the northern suburbs. They spend a lot of time together and Wilcots has been known to introduce his friend as "The Man that took out Bo Jackson."
The Raiders had a 7-3 halftime lead and got the second-half kickoff. On second-and-10, Jackson took a pitch around right end and when cornerback Lewis Billups missed the tackle, one of the more frightening images a defense could imagine came hurtling down the tracks. The 6-1, 227-pound Jackson was getting his shoulders square and easing those powerful legs into sprinter mode.
"It wasn't the tackle; it was more about what Bo did," Wilcots says. "He was so powerful. Kevin had his feet down by the ankles lassoed. Almost like steering a calf at a rodeo. Bo was so strong that when he started to rip out of it, he ripped the femur right out of his hip socket. That's how powerful Bo Jackson was.
"It wasn't about the hit. It was about the resistance and Bo's thrust to break out. Kevin was strong enough not to allow him to break out of the lasso. The femur went out and there went his career."
It was a 34-yard gain for No. 34. But no one thought it would be the last one. Certainly not Jackson, who was rolled past the Bengals bus on his way to the hospital after the game, smiling and telling them it was nothing. Coming up the locker runway, Jackson assured Walker he would be back for next week's AFC championship game in Buffalo.
"I didn't think it was serious; we didn't think it was serious," Wilcots says. "We were standing there with our families and everybody stopped and applauded him. ... No one thought that would be the last we saw of Bo Jackson."
The Bengals also didn't think that would be the last they saw of the playoffs after their second appearance in three years. Pro Bowl cornerback Eric Thomas had played well in his first game back from an ACL injury that wiped out his season, Pro Bowl safety David Fulcher had just signed a three-year deal before training camp, wide receivers Eddie Brown and Tim McGee could still run, Brooks and tight end Rodney Holman were Pro Bowlers, and quarterback Boomer Esiason would only turn 30 in April.
But it all fell apart in a 3-13 season the next year and the old gang was broken up.
"No," says Pro Bowl rookie wide receiver A.J. Green, looking at you like you're stark-raving mad, who was two years old when Bo got tackled one last time. "I don't remember (Jackson) playing. I was too little. But one of my coaches at Georgia showed us a highlight tape. He was something. He dominated."
It is seasons like 1991 and simple tackles like Kevin Walker on Bo Jackson why some tell the kids like Green to take advantage of a playoff run.
You never know.
Not even Bo.