The crowd was pumping and the music was thumping. Guns N' Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle" was booming, and for the first time in the longest time there was pride in Cincinnati. It had taken four months (16 season weeks), but the city of Cincinnati finally showed up with heart, pride, and most importantly—hope.
Enter Andy Dalton, enter A.J. Green, enter belief that the Bengals can do better, that Mike Brown can give back, that a team plays for Cincinnati and not in Cincinnati.
The imagination was rampant with Kurt Russell in Miracle being replaced by Marvin Lewis speaking to the team USA of Southern Ohio, firing the bellies of his players, giving the speech that the team may lose nine times out of 10, but not tonight, not this night.
Unfortunately, it did not play out this way, but something more inspiring came out of the crowd on Jan. 1, 2012, something quite unexpected: With the Bengals losing, the scoreboard flashed the meaning of any given Sunday as with Denver losing, the Bengals had entered the lair of lore not believed to be seen again for many years to come—the playoffs.
The Bengals have a ways to go, but something special happened in Week 17 of the 2011 season: Hope and belief emerged from the ashes of the past and have begun the Bengals back into the journey of the future.
Here is what we learned in Week 17 against the Baltimore Ravens....