Of the Bengals' six postseason losses under Marvin Lewis, none stung more than losing at home to the Chargers.
That 2013 club was a special one after winning 11 games and the AFC North crown for only the third time in the past two decades. That year saw the Bengals score memorable wins over the Packers, Patriots and Colts en route to a perfect home record.
Then came the Wild Card game against the Chargers, a team Cincinnati had beaten in San Diego that very season. But this was a much-improved Chargers team that played mostly mistake-free football while the Bengals shot themselves in the foot over and over before losing 27-10.
Turnovers. Dropped passes. Poor tackling. It was a team effort in losing a game, which Cincinnati looked poised to win after leading 10-7 at halftime. Domata Peko remembers that game all too well. As he told Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson,
"We owe them .They knocked us out," said Peko. "A lot of guys here went through that. That’s on us. It’s on our shoulders. We’ll be ready for them. We know what to expect."
Cincinnati gave up a season-high 196 rushing yards that day, which was George Iloka's first playoff game as a starting safety.
"They beat us up pretty bad," recalled safety George Iloka. "The score was close, but we didn’t play our brand of football. They were a little more physical than us. I remember that.
"It’s a new season. That year we beat them at home so it was no factor going into the playoff game. New season. I know they’re not thinking about that game. It was two years ago. They’re a good team. We’re a good team."
The Bengals found themselves in a similar situation last year when they played against a Texans team they were looking for revenge against after losing to them twice in the playoffs in the prior three seasons. That helped give Cincinnati the extra edge to go into Houston and come out with a 22-13 win over a team that would finish 9-7 and one game away from a playoff berth. The Bengals also rushed for 139 yards against a Texans defense that ranked 10th in run defense for the 2014 season.
Hopefully, the Bengals will get a similar form of revenge this Sunday against a Chargers team they've had marked on their calendar since the NFL schedule was released earlier this year.