Bengals hope fans show for home finale

Updated: December 26, 2011, 5:26 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

The Cincinnati Bengals have locked up just their third winning record in the last 21 years and are one win away from a playoff bid, but the team's biggest victory this season would be getting fans to show up.

With paltry attendance marking an impressive season in Cincinnati, Bengals players are now asking for fans to turn out for the team's home finale against AFC North rival Baltimore next Sunday.

"I just want to thank the fans who were out there today," defensive tackle Domata Peko said Saturday. "We really felt you guys out there, and that helped us out big time. I really want to encourage all of the Cincinnati fans to come out and cheer us on as we try to make the playoffs."

If the Bengals (9-6) can knock off the Ravens (11-4), Cincinnati would be headed to the playoffs and in search of its first postseason victory since the 1990 season.

Only 41,273 fans showed up on a sunny, 38-degree afternoon to watch the breakthrough 23-16 victory over Arizona on Saturday. Paul Brown Stadium, with a 65,500-seat capacity, was more than one-third empty.

A big part in the Bengals' change in fortune on the field this year has been rookie quarterback Andy Dalton, who also is lobbying for an audience.

"It's going to be a big week, and we're going to need everyone to come out and support us," Dalton said. "Everyone in Cincinnati needs to come out for this big game."

Even coach Marvin Lewis has taken to calling upon the fans.

"The crowd really affected the game with the noise, and I'm sure they'll be anxious to get here next Sunday as we play for something special," Lewis said Saturday.

However, two decades of playing losing football has the Bengals proud of what they've accomplished for the sake of both the city and the franchise, but also looking for support from a tortured fan base.

"I'm just happy for the team and the city of Cincinnati," cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones said. "The fans did a great job getting behind us, and we need all of you this week. We need the fans this week. Who Dey! Please come support us.

"I'm Adam Jones, and I approved this message."

On Monday, the Bengals attempted to lure fans by offering a buy-one, get-one-free ticket offer to season ticket holders for Sunday's game against Baltimore.

The team sold a "couple thousand" tickets Monday morning, said Jeff Berding, the team's director of ticket sales.

"We have a lot of tickets to sell," Berding said. "The response has been great."

If the team doesn't sell out with this promotion restricted to season ticket holders, it will consider a discount offer to the public.

After Saturday's win, Bengals players practically begged fans to fill the stadium for the final game.

"We had a very enthusiastic stadium last week," Lewis said Monday. "I tell these guys, 'I can't wait to see us play.' I think people that haven't seen us play in person will have a good time. We'll do some incredible things. We'll do some things I wish we didn't quite do, I'll tell you that. But we'll do some incredible things. It will be a good football game."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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