Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals, Germaine Pratt, Joe Burrow, Las Vegas Raiders, Mike Vrabel, NFL, San Francisco 49ers, Tennessee Titans
And the wait was over.
I was sat on my couch at home, agonising over the closing of the game and driving my partner, who doesn’t like the NFL at the best of times, round the bend with my nervous energy and occasional outbursts at the telly.
And finally, in the last minute of the fourth quarter with the Raiders on the Bengals’ nine-yard line and looking for all the world like they could take the game into overtime when linebacker Germaine Pratt got in front of the Raiders’ receiver to grab the ball and make the interception so the Bengals could kneel out the game.
What I felt was relief.
I was so happy. I didn’t see the last Bengals playoff win in 1991. I’m pretty certain there was no way for me to see that game in the UK except for the highlights, but what I did see was the sequence of losses that plagued the Marvin Lewis era. A period where despite multiple seasons with strong rosters and the turn around of the Bengals from league laughing stock to genuine competitor, the Bengals just could not get over the hump.
The 2015 team is the season that still haunts me with how good the offence was and Andy Dalton’s thumb injury that did for us in the post season.
These are not those Bengals though. They had to work hard to beat a team who had played a full over-time period the week before, but they held together and in Joe Burrow’s own words, set the standard.
I don’t know if they will win tonight against the Tennessee Titans, a team I have a huge amount of respect for, particular with what head coach Mike Vrabel has done in his time in charge.
However, what I do know is that for the first time, and I mean the first time given I remember the loss to the 49ers in the second of the Bengals Super Bowl losses but I was nine and knew nothing of what was to come, I am excited about tonight’s playoff game. The thirty year wait is over and while a new one begins and could very well extend into next season, I don’t expect anything like what has just ended.
I was only looking for some genuine progress this year and I got so much more so it is time to sit back and see if Joe Burrow with one of the most exciting collection of skill players in the league can pull of another win, without the weight of the history of the last thirty years hanging around them.
And whilst those players will have had a very different experience to that history, they have changed the relationship of the fans to the team.
And so, we’re on to Tennessee.