Being the acknowledged, if not, socially awkward science fiction aficionado, I gravitate toward the Klingon proverb that "revenge is a dish best served cold."
Either way, San Diego faces a destiny this weekend... and if you're listening to players and fans of the Cincinnati Bengals, San Diego should be worried. Cincinnati, having won 11 games and secured the No. 3 seed in 2013, hosted the Chargers during a wild card round that showed such promise. The Chargers were, at one point, 4-6 during the regular season, eventually securing the sixth seed by winning four straight in December. The Bengals, hoisting the AFC North trophy, were hosting the Chargers in Cincinnati, where the Bengals went undefeated (8-0) at home.
Back-to-back wild card losses to the Houston Texans promoted an established narrative about Cincinnati's postseason efforts. Things were going to change. They had to. Destiny. Providence. Winds of fate were absolving Cincinnati, rewarding the city and franchise with a desperately needed postseason win. Nothing could possibly stand in Cincinnati's way; not after winning 11 games with an offense and defense that both ranked in the top-10.
San Diego blew out Cincinnati, 27-10.
The Chargers, who outscored the Bengals 20-0 in the second half, generated 196 yards rushing against the league's third-ranked defense. Making things worse, Cincinnati's offense turned the ball over four times -- FOUR TIMES! The Bengals offense and defense collapsed with such hilarity that anyone dismissing the "can't-win" postseason narrative was finally buying into it. Of Cincinnati's postseason opportunities from the last four years, 2013 was arguably their finest opportunity to change perceptions.
Maybe destiny, fate, and providence played its role -- just not as we had expected.
As fans, we tend to express ridiculous emotional responses. "They don't care," some shout. "All Mike Brown wants is to make money," some mullet-wearing fans preparing for Y2K might still say. "Marvin Lewis is terrible," despite recreating a culture many of us never even thought existed in Cincinnati; a culture that has made everyone hopeful for each and every game.
Yet while we, as fans, shake our heavenly fists at the sky, demanding that the football gods listen to our wailing, the players, coaches and ownership feel the sting with a heavier burden. Players invest their entire existence into a sport criticized for discarding players, unlike billionaires using $100 bills to light Cuban cigars. Ownership spends and coaches sleep on couches in their offices, everyone contributes. They're the ones who lost this game... believe it or not, it weighs on them much heavier than any of us.
Cincinnati's media pounced on an enthusiastic storyline for Sunday's game between the Bengals and Chargers due to the 2013 Wild Card game; progressively forgotten since the heartbreaking loss nearly two years ago. No, the players haven't forgotten; they still feel it. This is about vengeance, don't pretend it's not and don't argue Cincinnati is above all that. They're not. They're human. Like you. Like all of us. They're angry. They've held onto it for years while most of us have discarded it behind an insufferable narrative.
"We owe them. They knocked us out," said defensive tackle Domata Peko via Bengals.com. "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."
"They have a lot of the same guys over there," said offensive guard Clint Boling. "Obviously they’re a good front and we’re looking for a little redemption."
Michael Johnson even said regarding the 2013 playoff season, ""I thought we were going to win the whole thing."
Despite the negativity he incurs during the "big game", one of my lasting images during this game is the fumble by Andy Dalton, who lost the football without being touched. However, it wasn't just him. The defense failed to defend and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther plans to "use it this week".