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The Bengals are on their way to their first Super Bowl since 1989

bengals win afc championship game
Eric Gay
Cincinnati Bengals kicker Evan McPherson (2) celebrates with teammates after kicking a 31-yard field goal during overtime in the AFC championship NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022, in Kansas City, Mo. The Bengals won 27-24.

It happened. The Bengals will be in the big game for the first time in more than three decades.

Cincinnati defeated Kansas City 27-24 on the road at Arrowhead Stadium after rookie kicker Evan McPherson kicked the game winning field goal for the second week in a row. Earlier this month, the Bengals defeated the Chiefs at Paul Brown Stadium 34-31 to clinch the AFC North title. Kansas City was picked as the favorite to win the AFC Championship.

013022 Bengals Fans.jpg
Cory Sharber
Bengals fans gathered in the DORA district at The Banks in Downtown shortly after Cincinnati's victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Fans have been waiting years for Cincinnati to make the Super Bowl again. Some weren't even born yet the last time around. Maddie Farlow says seeing the Bengals success is unreal.

"We never thought that we would experience this honestly, but we always followed along hoping and we did," Farlow said. "They exceeded all expectations and I'm so proud."

Grace Strotman was in tears seeing the Bengals victory.

"I've been a Reds fan and a Bengals fan my whole life and until this year, they had not advanced past the first round of the playoffs," Strotman said. "I don't even know how to feel."

The Bengals' road to Super Bowl LVI defied many expectations heading into the postseason. In the AFC Wild Card, Cincinnati defeated the Las Vegas Raiders 26-19 to break the longest drought in professional sports winning their first playoff game in over 30 years. The Raiders actually started Cincinnati's historic losing streak when they met in the playoffs back in 1991.

The following week, the Bengals upset the No. 1 ranked Tennessee Titans 19-16 after McPherson hit a game-winning field goal. It was the first postseason road game in franchise history.

The Bengals may have had a little help in Sunday's game. Nuns at Old St. Mary's Church in Over-the-Rhine said they were praying for Cincinnati's success against Kansas City. With 40 seconds left in last week's game against the Titans, all six nuns at the convent prayed for the team.

The last year Cincinnati went to the Super Bowl was 1988. That year, the Queen City celebrated its 200th birthday, the city's Flying Pig mascot was born, and Riverfront Stadium hosted the MLB All-Star game.

This will be the Bengals' third appearance in the Super Bowl. The two previous matchups were against the San Francisco 49ers in both Super Bowl XVI and XXIII. The Bengals lost both games by five and four points respectively.

Super Bowl LVI will take place Sun. Feb. 13 at 6:30 p.m. The game will be played at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California and will be broadcast on NBC.

This story has been updated.

Cory Sharber attended Murray State University majoring in journalism and political science and comes to Cincinnati Public Radio from NPR Member station WKMS.