It’s been nearly a quarter century since the Cincinnati Bengals last won a playoff game and they will be back for a fourth straight year to try again, this time in Indianapolis on Sunday.
Lewis has been the head man in Cincinnati since the 2003 season and has won 100 career games but he’s 0-5 in the postseason, losing to Pittsburgh after the 2005 season, as well as the New York Jets (’09), Houston Texans (’11 and ’12) and San Diego (’13). Dalton has been there for the last three of those setbacks since taking over the team in ’11 as a second-round pick out of TCU.
The franchise itself hasn’t won in January since 1991.
“We have to wait until Sunday to answer it again,” Lewis said of the criticism surrounding him and his team.
“Regardless of what’s gone on in the past, this is a new team,” Dalton added. “We’re here again. We were able to earn our way back here. We’ve got to take advantage of that. We understand that.”
A glass-is-half-full person might point to the fact that this is a franchise- record fourth straight postseason appearance for the Bengals while a glass-is- half-empty type wants results when they get there.
And those results will need to come against an emerging superstar in Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.
The Bengals finished the regular season at 10-5-1, winning five of their last seven games but they came up short in the winner-take-all battle for the AFC North in Pittsburgh last Sunday night when Antonio Brown scored two touchdowns — one on a punt return and one the conventional way — as the Steelers captured their first division crown since 2010 with a 27-17 victory over Cincinnati.
Indianapolis warmed up for this in Week 17 when Luck threw a pair of touchdown passes in only one half of action, leading the Colts to a 27-10 win over the moribund Tennessee Titans.
Luck finished 10-of-16 for 160 yards and set the franchise single-season passing yardage mark with 4,761 yards, surpassing Peyton Manning’s previous mark of 4,700 in 2010. Matt Hasselbeck also threw a touchdown pass in the second half for the Colts, who finished 11-5.
Indianapolis bounced back from a dreadful performance at Dallas in Week 16 and completed a sweep of the AFC South for a second straight year. The Colts, who managed only 229 yards against the Cowboys in a 42-7 loss, totaled 378 on Sunday en route to their 13th straight divisional win.
“We needed to come out and win,” said Luck. “To get a victory after last week was huge.”
Indianapolis leads its all-time series with the Bengals by a 17-10 margin and won the only prior postseason matchup. a 17-0 whitewash in a divisional playoff back in 1970.
Back in Week 7, Luck, who led the NFL with 40 touchdown passes this season, threw two scores as the Colts handed Cincinnati its worst loss of the year, a 27-0 shutout, the Bengals’ first in five years.
Indy limited Cincinnati to 135 total yards in that one and sacked Dalton three times while forcing Kevin Huber to punt it a franchise record-tying 11 times.
“Man, there were a lot of problems,” Bengals safety Reggie Nelson admitted when talking about that game. “We got beat and they got the best of us, so it’s always good going back to a stadium, back to the scene of the crime.”
In the postseason the Colts are 20-22 all-time while the Bengals are only 5-12.