Fanbases of both franchises probably don’t want to hear this, but the Jets and Bengals have a lot of similarities. Both teams were pretty good in the 80s; the Jets made the playoffs four times during the decade, while the Bengals made it thrice, appearing in two Super Bowls. The bulk of the 90s was pretty bad for both teams — for the Bengals, it was an entire decade of horror, bleeding over into the naughts. Cincinnati made the playoffs in 1990 and 2005, and exactly zero times in between those years. The early and mid 90s were among the Jets’ darker days as well, in some irony, highlighted by two former Bengals in QB Boomer Esiason and offensive coordinator-turned-Jet-head-coach Bruce Coslet (thanks, guys!)
Both teams haven’t been able to sustain much long-term success. Neither is the laughingstock they’re quite often made out to be anymore, but they also haven’t been able to stack too many positive seasons together. When it feels like they’ve turned the corner, reality seems to rear its ugly head.
Regardless of the similarities, the Jets have quite frankly owned the Bengals head-to-head. They’re 15-7 all time against Cincy and have won nine of the past 10 meetings dating back to 1992, including 2010s memorable road playoff win. Since we’re in a good place right now with the Jets, we figured it would be a real buzzkill to reminisce about the lone recent loss to the Bengals. with a bevy of victories to choose from, we’ve decided to take the time machine back to September 28, 1997.
At the time…
No. 1 movie in the U.S.: “The Peacemaker” starring George Clooney and Nicole Kidman. The IMDB synopsis reads, “A US Army colonel and a civilian woman supervising him must track down stolen Russian nuclear weapons before they’re used by terrorists.” Sounds really original!
Billboard No. 1 song in the U.S.: “Honey” by Mariah Carey. This was Mariah’s 12th No. 1 single. Mariah Carey is now married to Nick Cannon, who, when this football game was played, was 16 years old.
Jets’ record coming in: 2-2
Bengals’ record coming in: 1-2
The 1997 season was the one that brought the Jets back from the dead. After two years of Rich Kotite, the team was turned over to Bill Parcells. Parcells’ hiring gave the franchise immediate legitimacy, but they also started to finally win some games. Heading up to Cincinnati (who was coached by Bruce Coslet!) for a Week 5 clash, the Jets had a chance to match their win total from 1995, having already eclipsed their 1996 win total the previous week with a victory over the Raiders.
If Bill Parcells proved anything over his illustrious coaching career, it’s that he could win games with absolutely horrendous quarterbacks. This is a guy who went to the playoffs with Quincy Carter, nearly snuck into the playoffs with Ray Lucas, and remains, to this day, the only man capable of properly relaying to Vinny Testaverde which team wears which color. In 1997, the Jets were stuck with Neil O’Donnell, who went 0-6 as a starter the prior year before deciding he didn’t want to play anymore and paying a doctor to tell the Jets he needed shoulder surgery (this report has not been confirmed, YET).
But under Parcells, O’Donnell got off to a hot start in ‘97. Coming into this game, he’d thrown seven touchdowns against just two interceptions and he continued his torrid start to the season. The Jets opened the scoring in the first quarter with a short touchdown pass from O’Donnell to Fred Baxter, but the Bengals tied things up in the 2nd on a 50-yard hookup between Jeff Blake and Carl Pickens.
From there though, it was all Jets. We’ve talked a lot about O’Donnell so far, but there were a few Jets who actually didn’t fake injury to sit out the 1995/1996 Seasons From Hell and actually exuded a modicum of professionalism, and Adrian Murrell was one of them. His 14-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, one of seven on the season, gave the Jets a lead they wouldn’t give back. The Jets ran away with things before halftime (which they never, ever, EVER do, like, EVER). John Hall knocked through a field goal, and O’Donnell tossed his second TD of the game, this one to Keyshawn Johnson, giving New York a 24-7 halftime advantage.
Richie Anderson caught a touchdown in the fourth quarter, and the Bengals answered with one of their own to give us our final score of 31-14. I can’t seem to find time of possession for the game, but on sheer individual stats alone it seems as though the Jets dominated in that department. O’Donnell completed 20-of-34 for 212 and the three TDs (meaning he started the season with 10 TDs and just two picks in five games…WOAH) while Murrell had FORTY carries and 156 yards (Rex Ryan just got all tingly). Defensively, the Jets held the Bengals to just 215 total yards and 10 first downs (Rex Ryan just got even more tingly).
Of course, the 1997 season ended in very Jet-like fashion, with New York failing to secure a playoff spot in Week 17 in Detroit. But after Week 5 things had clearly turned around from the dredges of the past two seasons, mostly due to Parcells, but also to rejuvenated years by Murrell, defensive stalwarts Mo Lewis and Aaron Glenn and of course, O’Donnell.
I’ve said way too many nice things about Neil O’Donnell, so if you’ll excuse me, I have to go shower.