Orson Charles had no idea that the Bengals hadn’t won a playoff game in his lifetime. Yet, it’s true. The Bengals rookie tight end was born Jan. 27, 1991 — just three weeks after the team’s 10-7 victory over the Houston Oilers on Jan. 6, the franchise’s last playoff victory.
“You’re the first person to tell me that,” Charles said Tuesday when asked if he knew this piece of Bengals trivia.
Since then, Charles has grown up, the Oilers moved to Tennessee and the Texans, Cincinnati’s Saturday playoff opponent, were established. And the Bengals lost four playoff games, three of those in the last eight seasons.
The Bengals look to win their first playoff game of Charles’ lifetime on Saturday, this time against the Houston Texans, the same team that ended the Bengals’ playoff hopes a season ago.
At this point, the team is only concerned with winning that game, not erasing the past.
“It’s a game that means the utmost to us, because for us to make that progression ... that’s the next step — winning a playoff game and letting ourselves get some momentum in the playoffs,” offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth said. “That’s the only goal, and the only thing anyone cares about.”
Inside the Bengals locker room is much different than outside, where Bengals fans talk of heartbreak, disappointment and lost seasons.
“We hear, from you guys. We don’t talk about it, to be honest,” cornerback Leon Hall said. “We see this as a totally different year. You want to learn from the past, obviously, but we’re really taking this year as a whole different year. At this point everyone’s 0-0 and we’re just trying to win this game.
“It’s a different team every year. Even when you have pretty much the same core guys, it’s a different team. Every year is different, regardless of how many players move in and out. ... It’s a totally different year than last year. Some people bring up this defense with ’09’s defense, and it’s just totally different.”
A total of 36 players on the 53-man roster have played in the playoffs, including 28 who played in last year’s game in Houston and four more who made the trip but didn’t play in the 31-10 loss at Reliant Stadium.
There is some advantage, Hall said, to having played a playoff game year ago in Houston, but there’s no connection to the teams of the past. For Hall — and likely many of his teammates — the connection is best summed up by his answer to the question of what he thought of the Bengals when he was growing up a 49ers fan in Southern California in the early ’90s.
“I don’t remember the Bengals as a child,” Hall said. “I don’t remember many teams, to be honest. I remember the Cowboys, I remember the Bills — obviously they played each other quite a bit. I only remember a handful of teams, where I can remember sitting and watching football.”
Instead, he’s now playing for the Bengals and a city starving for a playoff winner — it’s just that the Bengals of 2012 are looking to move on and first win a playoff game and then a second and then more, not to make sure that Charles sees a Bengals playoff winner in his lifetime. The past is just that.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with us,” Whitworth said. “What we did in ’06, ’07 or ’08 has nothing to do with this football team — what happened 20 years ago certainly doesn’t. This team is the last two years. Last year we got to the playoffs when most people predicted us to be 0-16, this year we got back in the playoffs when people didn’t think we could and we’re here. Now the next step is winning a playoff game. Hopefully we can let that be a chip on our shoulder.”