Saturday, the Cincinnati Bengals defeated the Arizona Cardinals 23-16 to push their 2011 record to 9-6, locking up only their third winning record since 1990. With a victory over the Baltimore Ravens at home on New Years Day, the Bengals can clinch a playoff berth, a feat that has only happened 10 times since 1968.
On Christmas Eve, only a reported 41,273 fans out of a possible 65,500 showed up to Paul Brown Stadium to cheer on the Bengals to victory. Given the magnitude of the pending game vs. Baltimore, some Bengals players are campaigning for their fans to come out and support them in their quest for the playoffs:
“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.”
The Bengals have been a pleasant surprise this season, featuring one of the most exciting young quarterback and receiver combinations in the NFL with first round WR A.J. Green and 2nd round pick QB Andy Dalton, who also spoke out on the need for fans in the seats:
“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 head coach Marvin Lewis, who has the most wins as a Bengals coach and has led the team to two of those winning records, did some lobbying for fan support:
“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.”
Cincinnati, and Ohio for that matter, hasn’t experienced the best luck where sports are involved. There’s the much-celebrated Michael Jordan shot over Craig Ehlo in the 1989 Eastern Conference Finals. The Browns are, well, the Browns. Even their own fans think Browns Stadium is a “factory of sadness”. Ohio’s own LeBron James skipped town on the Cavs to chase titles with the Miami Heat. You would think seeing the Bengals fight for a playoff berth would be inspiration enough to bring out the fans in bunches, right?
Troubled cornerback Pacman Jones chose took the diplomatic approach to lobby fans to come out and supports the Bengals:
“I’m just happy for the team and the city of Cincinnati,” 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.”
Hear that, Cincinnati? The Bengals need YOU. Pacman has spoken. And who would want to miss plays like this from Jerome Simpson? I certainly wouldn’t.