During the strike-shortened 1987 season, quarterback Boomer Esiason and head coach Sam Wyche had openly feuded, and the team finished with a miserable 4–11 record. In 1988, both returned and the Bengals would win 12 and lose 4, capturing the AFC Central title.
In the playoffs, the Bengals went on to defeat the Seattle Seahawks 21–13, and the Buffalo Bills 21–10. Ickey Woods was the key contributor in both wins, rushing for a combined total of 228 yards and 3 touchdowns. Cincinnati’s 17th-ranked defense during the season made major improvements in the playoffs and held their opponents to a combined total of 23 points while hauling in 5 interceptions.
Despite the Bengals’ superior regular season record and quarterback Boomer Esiason’s MVP award, the 49ers were heavily favored to win the Super Bowl, mainly because of their quarterback, Joe Montana. Montana had already led the 49ers to two previous Super Bowls and both times left with a championship ring and the Super Bowl MVP honors. Boomer was also suffering from a sore left (throwing) shoulder, although the Bengals tried to keep it under wraps and made up for a lack of big-play passing attack with a run-heavy offense led by Woods and Brooks against their first two playoff opponents, Seattle and Buffalo.
On the eve of Super Bowl XXIII, Bengals running back Stanley Wilson told several teammates that he needed to get his playbook before their last meeting prior to the game. Twenty minutes later, his position coach, Jim Anderson, found him in a bathroom, deep in the throes of a cocaine high. The Bengals had no choice but to leave Wilson off the roster. Wilson’s relapse was his third offense under the NFL’s drug policy, and he was banned from the league for life.
Then on this date in 1989… well this is how that night ended:
First, there was this:
Then a few series later came this:
I will leave it at that.