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A Look Back to the Last Time the Bengals Defeated the Bills

The Ickey Shuffle on the sidelines during the 1989 AFC Championship game between the Bengals and Bills.
The Ickey Shuffle on the sidelines during the 1989 AFC Championship game between the Bengals and Bills.

The last time the Bengals beat the Bills was during the 1988 AFC Championship game on January 8, 1989. The Bengals defeated the Bills by a score of 21-10. They were led by Boomer Esiason, who completed 11 of 20 passes for 94 yards and one touchdown, and Ickey Woods, who carried the ball 29 times for 102 yards and two touchdowns.

The Bengals have played the Bills 10 times since then and lost all 10 times by a combined score of 270-181. To give you some perspective of what was happening the last time the Bengals beat the Bills: President-elect George H.W. Bush took office as the 41st president of the United States, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker ran aground and spilled 750,000 barrels of oil in Alaska, the Berlin Wall was still standing (it was torn down later that year), Nintendo's Game Boy was released, a gallon of gasoline cost about $1.02 and Batman was the highest grossing film.

Obviously a lot of things have changed since 1989. 


The Bengals used a fast-paced no huddle offense during the run to the Super Bowl, which was largely unheard of at that time in the National Football League. It was so unheard of, in fact, that the New York Times wrote an article about the Bills complaining that the Bengals' no-huddle offense is "unethical if not illegal."

Buffalo Bills head coach Marv Levy said that the no-huddle offense is used to deceive, which is against the rules.

He says the Bengals send players on and off the field while the defense is frozen, fearing to make a move. Eleven players are supposed to leave the huddle. But since the Bengals don't actually huddle, they may send in an extra player while somebody else suddenly runs off the field. In the confusion the defense may have too many men on the field, which leads to a penalty when the Bengals snap the ball suddenly. League Has No Complaints.

Even though much of the focus was on the offense, the defense was what won Cincinnati's second berth into the Super Bowl, holding the Bills inside their own territory for much of the game and winning the field position battle.

"Most games are decided by field position, and it was the case in this game," Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason said. "Our defense did a great job of bottling up Buffalo."

Additionally the Bengals used trickery on a fake punt play which extended their game-clinching drive

The Bengals worked the deception to perfection on fourth-and-4 from the Buffalo 33-yard line late in the third quarter. They first sent many of their linemen to the sidelines and had punt snapper Ed Brady and punter Lee Johnson run on the field. 

Brady, however, lined up at left guard and Schonert ran onto the field at the last minute, hiding himself behind 315-pound Brian Blados. The Bengals shifted Schonert over regular center Bruce Kozerski, and the Bills noticed the shift too late to respond.

"They were just sitting there with their eyes wide open," Schonert said. "They were playing real soft. I was real shocked that they didn't call a timeout."

And of course we couldn't talk about that game without adding this:

Things have certainly changed over the years. The no-huddle offense is common throughout the NFL and the players are bigger, stronger and faster. The Bills and the Bengals are two totally different teams. That doesn't mean that the Bengals can't break a 10-game losing streak and remind the Bills of the good old days.