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Bengals out to win one for Cincinnati

CINCINNATI -- Nine of the 53 players on the Cincinnati Bengals' active roster weren't born the last time the franchise won a playoff game.

Most of the rest were either toddlers or young children living in scattered parts of the world with little sense about what was ahead for the organization they eventually would call their employer.

In fact, little did anyone who called the Queen City home back in January 1991 know that the run of postseason sporting success their Midwest city had enjoyed for two decades was about to end. Three months before, the Cincinnati Reds had just won the last World Series they have played in, and the Bengals were days away from their most recent playoff victory.

An entire generation has grown up in Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky having missed out on a championship parade.

Those are the people Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton contends he and his teammates are thinking about and playing for Sunday when they travel to Indianapolis for a wild-card round playoff game against the Colts. When the teams meet Sunday afternoon, the Bengals will be trying to put an end to a 24-year postseason win drought.

"We're not just doing this for us," Dalton said. "We're doing it for the whole city of Cincinnati."

After Sunday night's 10-point loss in the regular-season finale at Pittsburgh, a game that determined this year's AFC North champion, safety George Iloka said he was focused on winning something that would last a lifetime for himself and his team's fans. He sheepishly admitted he had no idea where the hat he received for the Bengals' 2013 AFC North championship was in his home. He figured it was somewhere collecting dust.

If the Bengals make to the Super Bowl and win, he knows his reward for that accomplishment won't be decaying in an obscure corner.

"We need to do something to get the fans back on our side," Iloka said. "Like I say, you wouldn't put your body out there on the line for what? Dollars? That means nothing, honestly. To me, it doesn't. You want to get some hardware. You want to get something that lasts forever. Dollars don't last forever. Division hats don't last forever.

"You want something that the fans will remember and that you'll remember from the playoffs."

He wants a Super Bowl ring.

"We owe that to these fans, we owe it to ourselves," Iloka said. "We've worked hard. The ownership. We owe [a win Sunday] to everybody."

Cornerback Adam Jones, who has been with the Bengals since 2010, a year they went 4-12, wants the city to finally earn a championship. But beyond that, he also wants one for himself.

"More important to the guys in this locker room who have been working 365 days, working hard to get it together, is to do something special," Jones said.

He was quick to point out that making it to the postseason four years in a row is special enough for many organizations. But like Iloka, Jones wants much more.

"We cherish the moment, enjoy the moment, but at this stage, for the guys who have been in the locker room going through hell and high water," Jones said, "we just need to win the game."

More than two million people who call the Cincinnati metropolitan area home would agree.