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Bengals trying to erase 21-year stigma in playoffs

Bengals-Bad Memory

CINCINNATI (AP) - The last time the Bengals won a playoff game, they beat Houston - the Oilers, not the Texans. Then, they went to the West Coast and lost to the Raiders - the L.A. Raiders.

Yes, it's been that long.

The Bengals (9-7) haven't won a playoff game since the end of the 1990 season, a 21-year span of futility that's become part of local lore. They've been to the playoffs only twice since then, losing their games in 2005 and 2009.

They've got a chance to end the streak of futility - now 7,768 days and counting - on Saturday at Houston in a first-round game against the Texans (10-6), the AFC South champions who are making their first playoff appearance.

``It would be a tremendous feeling for us to get rid of that stigma of not being able to get to the playoffs and win it,'' offensive tackle Andre Smith said on Tuesday.

In the last few days, players were made aware of the franchise's lousy playoff history in the past two decades. They've secured only their third winning record since 1990, which was something most of them didn't realize until they were told about it.

Now, there's that playoff matter.

I don't know for everybody, but I wasn't aware until I saw it on Twitter,'' cornerback AdamPacman'' Jones said. ``The guys in here, we can't worry about the past. We've got a great outlook to the future with the young guys we've got here.

``I think this is the role of something new around here. So don't think this is going to be one playoff and then next year going 0-16.''

The Bengals' two most recent trips to the playoffs haven't left good memories.

They were one of the NFL's biggest surprises in 2005 when they won the AFC North behind Carson Palmer's 32 touchdown passes. Palmer got his left knee torn up on his first pass of a home playoff game against Pittsburgh, and the Bengals lost 31-17.

They'd morphed into a run-first offense in 2009, when they won the AFC North again but got beat by the Jets 24-14 at Paul Brown Stadium, leaving them still winless in the postseason since 1990.

They thought they'd get back there last season when they added Terrell Owens to upgrade the passing game, but it all fell apart in a 4-12 mess that made Palmer want out. He was traded to Oakland during this season for two high draft picks.

A favorable schedule and a few breaks helped them reach the postseason again this season, perhaps the most surprising of the last three playoff appearances. They had the AFC's least-experienced team heading into the season, led by rookie quarterback Andy Dalton and rookie receiver A.J. Green.

They went 0-7 against other playoff teams and beat only one team all season that finished with a winning record - Tennessee - but got the final wild card spot when the Jets, Broncos and Raiders melted down in the closing weeks.

One of those seven losses to playoff teams came on Dec. 11 at Paul Brown Stadium, when the Texans drove 80 yards in the closing minutes for a 20-19 win that secured their first playoff appearance and left the Bengals needing a lot of help to get the wild card.

They got what they needed. Now, they've got a third chance to break that playoff victory drought since 1990.

We've got some guys who were pretty close to just being born when that happened,'' offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth said on Wednesday.We've got some young guys on the team. So I imagine most of them have no clue about it.''

Some of those who were part of that one-and-out playoff appearance in 2009 feel like they weren't even in the postseason.

After our walkthrough (on Tuesday morning), coach had everyone kneel down and asked everyone who'd ever experienced being in the playoffs to stand up,'' said linebacker Rey Maualuga, a rookie in 2009.And I stayed kneeled down because I felt I wasn't a part of it. It wasn't me that went to the playoffs, it was the team.

``Now that I get a chance to experience that and take that bittersweet taste out of my mouth, it's going to be good. I can't wait.''

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