Sure, the Bengals are only two games below .500 against the Chiefs. Sure, neither team has won back-to-back games since the Chiefs won in 1984 and 1986. More recently, Robert Geathers knocked Trent Green cold (2006), and the Chiefs dominated the Bengals backup players at the start of that calendar year; when Larry Johnson rushed for 201 yards, three touchdowns with Trent Green completing all but six of 29 passes for 344 yards. Sure, the Bengals played three straight games from the 2005 season, up until last season's 20-27 loss in October, at Kansas City (1-2).
Remember the last time the Chiefs were at Paul Brown stadium? C'mon. It was that game. Electricity filled the city before the game. Cincinnati filled PBS, a record (at the time) of 64,923 watched the game. Chad Johnson guaranteed a win. Rudi Johnson rushed for 165 yards, Jon Kitna was strong. Chad was average, Corey Dillon ineffective. The Bengals defense held Priest Holmes to under four yards a carry (62 yards rushing), forcing Trent Green to beat us through the air. In fact, the Bengals outrushed the Chiefs 200-67.
By now I hope you know that game I'm talking about.
It was the game that Peter Warrick would likely remember as his best game in his NFL career. Returning a punt 68 yards for a touchdown, the Bengals set a fourth-quarter pace that I consider one of the team's best fourth quarter jobs during the Marvin Lewis era. Note: The best fourth-quarter performance by the Bengals was a December 5, 2004 comeback against the Baltimore Ravens. Down 20-3 heading into the fourth quarter, the Bengals scored 24 points to win the game by one point.
After his punt return for touchdown, Warrick caught a Jon Kitna pass that went 77 yards and the team's 24th point, and eventually, the game winning score. Warrick finished the game with six receptions for 114 yards (career high), a receiving touchdown, 87 yards on punt return and a return touchdown.
Before he went out to field a punt with the Bengals clinging to a 10-6 lead, he told teammate T.J. Houshmandzadeh to watch closely.
"I told T.J. on the sideline, 'I'm about to seal this with a kiss,'" Warrick said. "He said, 'What do you mean?' I said, 'Just watch.' I saw the hole open up."
I remember that game being the game that the Bengals "turned the corner". They beat a 9-0 Kansas City Chiefs, while sporting a 4-5 record heading into the game. I wrote for BengalsZone at the time, afterwards saying:
Seriously, this is the proudest Cincinnatians have felt with their team in years. There’s a sense of pride, a strut into work with a smirk to your co-workers to make sure they know their favorite team is NEXT! Water cooler conversations go from THG, to the orange and black faithful forcing Bengals talk and nothing else. How many of us have this feeling, this sense of pride, excitement when you reflect on Sunday, you reach back and have a little cheer in store for anyone willing to audience such a rah.
Does it matter the Chiefs played a football game, an exhibition in their minds, only to find out in the post game they weren’t ready? This is the biggest copout and excuse by professional teams. How can you not be ready? You’re paid to play sports for your entire life, and to make this claim is both cheap and without class. Can’t admit to your loss? I don’t buy it; you lost the game, be a man. Stand up to your critics while you were out performed in all three phases of the game.
After all, Chad Johnson’s continuous jabbering of guarantees should have made Kansas City prepared. But they weren’t ready, so we’ll let them have that excuse. Whatever. Does it matter the Chiefs, whom I thought were class, acted as if they lost the third grade super bowl? What matters is Bob Bratkowski didn’t sit on the ball when they were leading, nor did the Bengals cause that irreversible mistake when the game was in hand; a tradition the Bengals have with the years of losing. The Bengals forced Kansas City to beat them.
We weren’t waiting for that one play that would turn our covenant victory into the excuse, “well it’s Kansas City, what did we really expect?” We were waiting for Rudi to start his own rendition of power football; he’s looking scary, wouldn’t you agree? How many of us have gone to sports websites to see the national reaction? Typically we would see an embarrassing loss and all could guarantee – that word is suddenly popular – each column would saturate the “pathetic” and boring Bengals. Remember the New York Times article following the 30-3 loss against the Falcons? The football gods are starting to phrase Bengaldom. Ye Gods! I still claim the week 3 loss in 2002 was the turn around. This began the motions for the nation to finally see what’s going on here in lonely Cincinnati, and helped amplify our voice of discontent.
Yes, I was peeved that the Chiefs didn't credit the Bengals; rather taking the high road saying that they didn't collectively play their best. That's what a writer liked me, who spent year after year writing about losses, taking such offense that we won. I was younger, excited and demanding league-wide praise of our performance. Dante Hall said after the game, "If they would have beat us at our best, I think it might have been a little easier to swallow."
That's the thing about the NFL. Not being ready, not having emotion, or a chip on your shoulder, could lend to a self-imposed, embarrassing defeat. If you're 9-0, and not ready, then you're going to lose 38-31 in your first playoff game.
Priest Holmes said after the game, "I've never lost to them, so for me to lose to them now, it definitely tears my heart apart. That's why I can say I do respect the players and the coach. But as far as the organization itself, I don't, because they're not used to winning." Even though there was truth to that at the time, the Bengals handed it to Holmes and the Chiefs. Still, in the end, the Chiefs tried desperately to remind everyone that they were the better team, even though they lost in an epic franchise-defining moment.
Since that game, the Bengals would amass a 40-45-1 record (including the playoff loss to the Steelers) while the Chiefs went 36-51 (including two playoff losses to the Colts).