Many Bengals fans weren’t alive for the team’s last Super Bowl appearance. That’s how long it’s been since the Bengals were represented in the NFL’s biggest game of the year.
28 years and 6 days.
7,310 weekdays and 2,923 weekend days.
1,461 weeks and 6 days.
Those measures all illustrate the amount of time that has gone by since January 22, 1989 when the Bengals played in Super Bowl XXIII.
The Bengals have played in and lost two Super Bowls, both to the San Francisco 49ers. The most recent game followed the 1988 season when Boomer Esiason (who won NFL MVP that season) led the Bengals to a 12-4 record under head coach Sam Wyche and did well enough to earn home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Bengals beat the Seahawks in the Divisional Round, the Bills in the AFC Championship game, and in doing so, made it to their second Super Bowl. Going into halftime, the game was tied 3-3, before the Bengals took a 13-6 lead going into the fourth quarter. As is usually the case for the Bengals when on the biggest stages, bad luck struck as nose tackle Tim Krumrie (who had 152 tackles and 3.0 sacks that season) twisted his ankle, shattering two bones in his left leg during the game.
Ultimately, the 49ers fought their way back into the game with a 14-point fourth quarter, which included a touchdown pass from Joe Montana to John Taylor, which gave San Francisco the lead with 39 seconds remaining. The Bengals were unable to get a score to retake the lead with such little time remaining, and, the 49ers beat the Bengals for the second time in the Super Bowl to claim the Lombardi Trophy.
The Bengals haven’t made it back to the Super Bowl or even the AFC Championship game since. The Divisional Round is the furthest the Bengals have gotten since that Super Bowl loss; it was after the 1990 season (1991 playoffs) and the Bengals lost to the then Los Angeles Raiders. All seven playoff appearances in the 21st century have been Wild Card losses.
You can watch the full game online, if you’re into re-living cruel losses for the Bengals, or, if you weren’t alive to watch the game and would like to witness a piece of the team’s history.