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No. 24 And Why A Bengals Coach Hopes It's a Super Number All These Years Later

Vonn Bell's No. 24 celebrates a big play in, where else? Tennessee.
Vonn Bell's No. 24 celebrates a big play in, where else? Tennessee.

Bengals cornerbacks coach Steven Jackson has been talking about this game to his guys all season.

Ever since the Titans were cleaning out stuff in Nashville this summer and shipped him his No. 24 jersey he wore in the last Super Bowl of the 1990s.

He plans to talk to his players about that game at some point this week.

"I've been thinking about a lot of things," Jackson said Tuesday after he settled into the Bengals' first Super Bowl of this century. "One of them is, why did it just show up this year?"

That Super Bowl in the Georgia Dome was the last game of Jackson's 118-game career during nine seasons he started 26 times with the Houston Oilers, Tennessee Oilers and Tennessee Titans. He thinks about it every day, an agonizing 23-16 loss to the Rams by one yard. By one second.

Jackson thinks about Rams linebacker Mike Jones stopping Titans wide receiver Kevin Dyson at the Rams 1-yard line at the gun every day. But he never thought about the No. 24 jersey he wore that day making two tackles backing up Samari Roille and Denard Walker on the Tennessee corner while also roaming special teams.

Did he say Rams?

"It was different then," Jackson said. "We had our heads down in the locker room, the equipment guys came in and picked them up (the jerseys) and I just figured I'd get it later when we got back."

But a few days after he got back (two days, Jackson thinks), Titans head coach Jeff Fisher called him in and said they had to pay left tackle Jon Runyan, he didn't want to ask Jackson to take a pay cut and …

"I was gone," Jackson said. "I left. I got most of my stuff. I already had three jerseys, so I never thought about the one I wore in the Super Bowl."

At 30, Jackson never played again, but he has coached plenty around the league. Even back in Tennessee in 2016-17. Still, the jersey showed up in Cincinnati last summer, not then. He spoke to his Bengals cornerbacks about it the first day of training camp.

"We had a discussion what it means and what it all represents," Jackson said. "We did that the very first meeting of camp. We've talked about it."

Now that he's back in the Super Bowl, he's stunned at the similarities of the seasons. That one began against the Bengals in the first game ever at Nissan (then Adelphi) Stadium. The Titans came back from nine down with 7:56 left to catch the Bengals at the gun, 36-35. Never mind a few weeks ago the Bengals stunned the top-seeded Titans at the gun on the same field to get to the AFC championship game.

"When we beat the Bengals, no one expected us to go to the Super Bowl. We weren't the favorites. Nobody had us going to the Super Bowl," Jackson said. "We were something like 7-9, 8-8 (8-8) the year before. Then in the playoffs we had the Music City Miracle. Then we had a fourth-quarter comeback in Indy."

Then they won the AFC title on the road. In Jacksonville.

Sound familiar?

It does to Jackson. The Bengals didn't need a throwback pass at home on the last kickoff to win the Wild Card like the Titans shocked the Bills in Nashville. But Paul Brown Stadium was singing when Germaine Pratt's interception at the Raiders 2 with 12 seconds left saved the day. Then there was another last-second win in Tennessee, of all places, and the 18-point comeback in Kansas City.

"And it's the Rams," Jackson said.

Jackson still winces. The Titans had just tied the game at 16 with 2:12 left. Jackson was on the sidelines watching when Rams quarterback Kurt Warner took the next snap and went 73 yards to wide receiver Isaac Bruce for the win.

It doesn't help it took two Pro Football Hall of Famers to beat them.

"The next play. Oh man," Jackson said.

Jackson figures it's time to tell them about that game. And why he thinks about that loss every day.

"That's why you do this," Jackson said. "You do this to be the last man standing. You don't do this because the money's good and all the things that come with it. You do this to get the ring."

The Rams. He'll talk it over with his guys at some point.

"I want a different outcome. (The Rams) want the same," Jackson said. "I'll say something. I just want everything to simmer."

(Footnote: Bengals No. 24, strong safety Vonn Bell, made the interception in overtime to set up the AFC title.)