The 1988 Cincinnati Bengals season was the team's 21st year in professional football and its 19th with the National Football League. After coming off a disappointing 1987 season, the Bengals tied for the best record in the NFL in 1988, secured home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, and won the AFC Championship, appearing in Super Bowl XXIII. The 1988 Bengals were featured in the NFL Films series The Missing Rings, being included as one of the five best teams in NFL history not to have won the Super Bowl.
In the AFC Championship Game, The Bengals forced 3 interceptions, and allowed only 45 rushing yards and 136 passing yards, while their offense held the ball for 39:29. Bills starting running back Thurman Thomas was held to just 6 yards on 4 carries, while quarterback Jim Kelly completed only 14 of 30 passes for 161 yards and 1 touchdown, with 3 interceptions. Just like their previous game, the Bengals didn't get much of a performance from NFL MVP Boomer Esiason, who completed only 11 of 20 passes for 94 yards, with 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. But once again, their running game was able to pick up the slack, gaining 175 yards on the ground, 102 yards and 2 touchdowns coming from fullback Ickey Woods.
Cincinnati took a 7–0 lead in the first quarter after defensive back Eric Thomas' interception set up Woods' 1-yard touchdown. Kelly led the Bills back with 4 consecutive completions, the last one a 9-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Andre Reed. Then after forcing a punt, Buffalo drove to the Bengals 26-yard line, only to have Scott Norwood miss a 43-yard field goal attempt. Following another punt, Kelly was intercepted again, this time by defensive back Lewis Billups, and the Bengals capitalized with running back James Brooks' 10-yard touchdown reception from Esiason. Later on, Bills defensive back Mark Kelso intercepted a pass from Esiason and returned it 25 yards, setting up a 39-yard field goal by Norwood to cut the Bills deficit to 14–10 by halftime.
The Bengals took over the game in the second half, forcing Buffalo to start all of their drives from inside their own 23-yard line and holding them to 53 yards, 2 first downs, and 0 points. Late in the third quarter, Bengals running back Stanley Wilson gained 6 yards on a fake punt attempt, and Cincinnati drove to score on Woods' second touchdown of the game, increasing their lead to 21–10. The Bills responded with a drive into Bengals territory, but safety David Fulcher picked off a desperate fourth down pass from Kelly in the end zone.
This was the last time the Bengals defeated the Bills until Week 4 of the 2011 season. The Bills would go on to win 10 straight against them.
1988 Cincinnati Bengals AFC Championship Ring
- Product Code: AFC 1988
- Availability: In Stock