Cincinnati Bengals: 2014 Memorable Plays

John TaylorUSA TODAY Sports
We have a winner. The voters selected John Taylor's game-winning TD catch in the 49ers' win over Cincinnati in Super Bowl XXIII as the Bengals' most memorable play and I question their selection.

Score: 49ers 20, Bengals 16
Date: Jan. 22, 1989. Site: Joe Robbie Stadium.

Apparently the people who voted all this week in our Cincinnati Bengals most memorable plays poll aren't on Twitter. Because a good majority of the tweets I received this week regarding the Bengals' three most memorable plays -- selected, I might add, in part by those who participated in an unofficial Twitter survey back in June -- criticized the inclusion of 49ers receiver John Taylor's 10-yard touchdown catch that closed Super Bowl XXIII.

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Those of you who vented such frustrations, I get them. When you think about a top plays or most memorable plays countdown, it's in your nature as a sports fan to assume right away that all of the plays involved are "good" ones for the team you root for. For example, either of Ken Anderson's two touchdown passes during the 1981 AFC championship "Freezer Bowl" game with minus-59 wind chills could have been options. Or Jerome Simpson's no-hands goal-line front flip into the end zone in 2011 might have been one. So, too, could Giovani Bernard's field-reversing, tackle-breaking 35-yard run at Miami last season.

Neither of those plays, though, made the cut. Stanford Jennings' 93-yard kick return touchdown that gave the Bengals a late lead in Super Bowl XXIII did, as did running back Corey Dillon's 41-yard touchdown run in 2000 that broke Walter Payton's longtime single-game rushing record. Since some of the best and brightest moments in team history include the Super Bowl appearances, it simply made sense that Jennings' return was a memorable play option. The same had to be said for Taylor's reception, as painful as it may have been for some of you to relive. That reception, which capped another one of Joe Montana's famous comebacks, came at the close of the most recent Super Bowl for the Bengals.

As problematic as the inclusion of Taylor's catch was for some of our loyal Twitter followers, it apparently wasn't an issue for the rest of you. Taylor's catch led the memorable play voting much of the week and ended up the winning selection.

Again, that reception arguably contributed (maybe in a small way) to the downturn the Bengals endured that caused a generation of football fans to grow up believing they weren't a very good franchise. As Chad Richard Bresson tweeted, "One could argue the Jennings return represents apex of Bengals franchise. SB loss, then Montoya. Downhill." (Max Montoya was a guard on the 1981 and 1988 Super Bowl teams. Instead of coming back to Cincinnati as expected in 1990, the then-free agent and California native signed with the Los Angeles Raiders. That postseason, his Raiders beat the Bengals in the second round. Cincinnati hasn't won a playoff game since that year's win over the Houston Oilers a round earlier.)

Instead of Taylor's catch, my pick would have been Dillon's run. Although his record has since been broken by Jamaal Lewis and Adrian Peterson, Dillon's 278 yards against the Broncos were just the dose of optimism the organization needed at the time. In the middle of what was a 14-year stretch without a winning record, the Bengals were in real dark days. They were 0-6 entering that game alone. There was very little to cheer about. But then Dillon came along and smashed one of the game's longstanding records, bringing some positive vibes to the city, even if they lasted for only one more week.
Corey DillonJonathan Daniel/Allsport
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This is one of three finalists for the most memorable play in Bengals history. The others are Stanford Jennings' go-ahead, 93-yard kickoff return touchdown at the end of the third quarter in Super Bowl XXIII against the 49ers, and John Taylor's game-winning touchdown catch to beat the Bengals in that same game. This entry is a play from the middle of the 2000 season. Vote below for your favorite.

Score: Bengals 31, Broncos 21
Date: Oct. 22, 2000 Site: Paul Brown Stadium

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Description: It started as just another late-October Sunday afternoon in Cincinnati in a season that had already been effectively declared a wash. Arguably the biggest storyline entering the Week 8 showdown revolved around Paul Brown Stadium and the hex the Bengals had seemingly been under since they opened it earlier that year. At 0-3 at home and 0-6 overall, the Bengals hadn't quite gotten acclimated to their new digs. Actually, they hadn't quite gotten used to playing on the road, either.

But what else was new? Playing in the 10th year of what ended up being a 14-season stretch without a winning record, the Bengals were in the middle of some of their darkest days as a franchise. They needed something to get excited about. Their fans needed something to cheer.

Corey Dillon provided that spark when he rushed around the left side for a 41-yard touchdown, and a dash into the NFL's history books.

With his touchdown run that extended a Bengals lead to the eventual 31-21 score they would win by, Dillon became the league's new single-game rushing record holder. The 41-yard scamper was his last on an afternoon that saw him collect 278 yards rushing, three more than the 275 Hall of Famer Walter Payton had in a November 1977 Bears win over the Vikings.

Payton's record had stood for 23 years. Dillon's barely made it three. Baltimore's Jamal Lewis rushed for 295 yards in a game against Cleveland in 2003.

Because of how long Payton's record stood, Dillon's record-setting day was warmly received across the league, and continues to be. The run into history was considered one of the best moments in the NFL that season, and it certainly ranks among the top all-time plays in Bengals history. Hence its inclusion in this list. Does it rank as the best in franchise history, though? We'll find out what you say later this week.
 
John TaylorUSA TODAY Sports
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This is one of three finalists for the most memorable plays in Cincinnati Bengals history. The others are Corey Dillon's 41-yard touchdown run that broke the single-game rushing record and the San Francisco 49ers John Taylor's game-winning touchdown catch 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

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Description: In order to be eligible for consideration on the Bengals' top plays list, a play did not have to be one that caused Who Dey Nation to erupt in raucous cheer. It could have been the direct source of heartache, too.

Exactly 15 minutes, 16 seconds after Stanford Jennings pushed the Bengals out front by seven in Super Bowl XXIII with a kick return touchdown, 49ers quarterback Joe Montana punctuated a fourth-quarter comeback drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone to John Taylor. It was a catch that effectively ended the game and gave the 49ers their third Lombardi Trophy under former Bengals assistant, coach Bill Walsh.

Taylor's catch off a slant into the end zone also ended an 11-play drive that saw Montana complete eight of the nine passes he attempted. Aside from Taylor's game-winning grab, Hall of Famer Jerry Rice had three key receptions on the drive, including a 27-yard haul that put the 49ers in the red zone two plays ahead of Taylor's catch. The drive covered 92 yards and lasted barely two minutes.

Had Cincinnati's defense been able to stand as tall on that drive as it had earlier in the game, the Bengals likely would have kept the 49ers out of the end zone and held on just enough to win. Before that series, the Bengals had allowed 358 yards and just one touchdown. They also had allowed the 49ers to convert only two third downs on 10 tries. During the drive, San Francisco saw only one third down. It converted when Roger Craig plowed ahead for a 4-yard run after needing only 2 yards.

As much as Taylor's catch will forever be remembered as the iconic play that sealed the 49ers victory, it's important to note that the 10 plays before helped set it up.

Stanford JenningsGin Ellis/Getty Images
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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.

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Which is the most memorable play in Bengals' history?

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Discuss (Total votes: 30,879)

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.

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