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Bengals' top plays: Jennings' kick return TD

7/3/2014
Gin Ellis/Getty Images

This is one of three finalists for the most memorable plays in Bengals history. The others are Corey Dillon's 41-yard touchdown run that broke the single-game rushing record and John Taylor's game-winning touchdown catch that allowed the San Francisco 49ers to beat the Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII. This entry is a play from the same game; vote below for your favorite.

Score: 49ers 20, Bengals 16

Date: Jan. 22, 1989 Site: Joe Robbie Stadium

Description: For 43 minutes, place kicking dominated Super Bowl XXIII. In the 44th minute, a kickoff return changed all that, giving the game an electrifying touchdown that put the Bengals in the lead with a quarter left in the defensive slugfest.

Stanford Jennings, a 26-year-old returner/running back at the apex of his NFL career, scored the first touchdown with 50 seconds left in the third quarter when he sprinted 93 yards on a kickoff return that pushed the Bengals to a 13-6 lead. Finally, after trading field goals with the 49ers, the Bengals had the game's momentum. As the Bengals prepared for the final quarter, the odds of them winning the franchise's first Super Bowl started looking quite favorable.

As we whittled down -- with your help -- the many plays that have taken place in Bengals history, it seemed clear that at least one play from one of Cincinnati's two Super Bowl appearances needed to make the list. Unfortunately for the Bengals, compared to other older and more successful teams, their 46-year history has a somewhat limited pool of cheer-worthy moments if we're discussing plays that could compete with the NFL's all-time best. Let's make it clear, though: That doesn't mean the team hasn't had any. From the "Freezer Bowl" to the franchise's founding to Chad Ochocinco's "Riverdance" to Jerome Simpson's flip and Giovani Bernard's zig-zag run at Miami last season, there have been some awe-inspiring moments.

None of those, however, made it in our top three.

Jennings' play deserves consideration as the most memorable play in Bengals history because, at the time, it was a pivotal play in one of the two biggest games the team has ever played. When Jennings was tripped up as he crossed the goal line, the Bengals sideline erupted. The entire group knew the Bengals were now in control of the game and stood a good chance to emerge from South Florida having denied one of its former sons his third Lombardi Trophy. 49ers coach Bill Walsh served as an assistant in Cincinnati under the late Paul Brown during the franchise's early years.

While then-Bengals coach Sam Wyche tried to keep his sideline calm, it was noted during the game's broadcast that he and Jennings were graduates of the same small South Carolina college, Furman. The two Paladins seemed poised to share a post-graduate honor so few who've played and coached in the NFL ever get to realize.

But two Joe Montana touchdown passes later, the Bengals lost the lead and, eventually, the game. They haven't returned to the Super Bowl since.