Ickey Woods Starred, Jim Kelly Struggled the Last Time the Bengals and Bills Met in the Playoffs

The last time the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills met in the postseason, the “Ickey Shuffle” was just getting started, and the Buffalo Bills hadn’t been to four straight Super Bowls yet. The Bengals and Bills are set for their first playoff rematch since 1989.

The teams battle it out 34 years later for the right to play in the AFC Championship Game when the Bengals travel to Buffalo’s Highmark Stadium to take on the Bills on Sunday afternoon. The last time these teams clashed in the playoffs, Bengals running back Ickey Woods swept the nation, while Bills quarterback Jim Kelly had a dismal outing.

The Bengals and Bills meet Sunday with plenty on the line

The Bengals and Bills barely survived the first round of the postseason last week as heavy favorites. The Bills surrendered 31 points to a third-string quarterback and held on for a 34-31 victory over the Miami Dolphins. The Bengals needed a miraculous 98-yard fumble return for a touchdown to sneak past the Baltimore Ravens 24-17.

The two victories helped set up the rare playoff matchup between the teams. The Bills and Bengals met during the regular season, but the game was canceled after Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest on the field and was transported to a Cincinnati hospital. He has since made a remarkable recovery and has returned home.

The game took place Week 17, and the Bengals held a 7-3 lead in the first quarter before Hamlin’s incident. The game was halted and then officially canceled later in the week. Buffalo finished the season as the No. 2 seed in the AFC, while the Bengals are No. 3. The Kansas City Chiefs are the top seed.

Both the Bengals and Bills have plenty to clean up if they want to play for the conference championship. Buffalo overcame three turnovers by quarterback Josh Allen and made things more difficult than they should’ve been. The Bengals were outplayed by a Ravens team without its starting quarterback as well.

Ickey Woods shined, and Jim Kely struggled the last time these teams met in the playoffs

Defensive lineman David Grant of the Cincinnati Bengals sacks quarterback Jim Kelly of the Buffalo Bills during the 1988 season AFC Championship game at Riverfront Stadium on Jan. 8, 1989, in Cincinnati, Ohio. | George Gojkovich/Getty Images.
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On Jan. 8, 1989, the Bengals and Bills met in a game that had a little more on the line — a Super Bowl berth — that this one. Both teams finished the regular season at 12-4. They met in the AFC Championship Game at Cincnnati’s Riverfront Stadium as the top two seeds.

Woods was a fan favorite with his “Ickey Shuffle,” a dance he created after scoring a touchdown. He danced often, scoring 15 touchdowns in his rookie season. He took the NFL by storm by rushing for 1,066 yards and leading the NFL with 5.6 yards per carry.

The Bills weren’t quite that offensive juggernaut that would eventually appear in four straight Super Bowls. Led by Kelly, the Bills averaged just 20.5 points in 16 regular-season games. Their defense, however, only allowed 237 points, which was tops in the AFC and third to the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings overall.

In the conference title game, Woods and the Bengals danced their way to a 21-10 victory. Woods opened the scoring with a 1-yard touchdown run and then capped the scoring with another 1-yard plunge in the fourth quarter to seal the deal. Woods finished the game with 102 rushing yards on 29 carries and the two scores. Quarterback Boomer Esiason hit running back James Brooks for the Bengals’ other score.

Meanwhile, Kelly and the Bills struggled. He hit Andre Reed with a second-quarter touchdown pass to tie the game at 7-7 but finished the game with three interceptions. Kelly completed 14 of 30 passes for 163 yards. He was harrassed in the backfield all game and was sacked three times.