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1981 Cincinnati Bengals season

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Head coach  Forrest Gregg
Owner  Paul Brown
Record  12–4
General manager  Paul Brown
Home field  Riverfront Stadium
Division place  1st AFC Central
1981 Cincinnati Bengals season

The 1981 Cincinnati Bengals season was the team's 14th year in professional football and its 12th with the National Football League (NFL). The team won their first AFC Championship, but lost Super Bowl XVI to San Francisco.


Cincinnati had at least a share of the AFC Central lead the entire season. On December 13, quarterback Ken Anderson threw two touchdown passes as the Bengals clinched the division with a 17–10 win over the Steelers.

Ken Anderson led the NFL in passing in 1981 with a 98.5 rating.

On January 3, 1982, the Bengals beat Buffalo, 28–21, in an AFC Divisional Playoff game. A week later, playing in their first AFC Championship Game, the Bengals defeated San Diego, 27–7, at Riverfront Stadium in a temperature of nine degrees below zero with a wind-chill factor of minus-59. This game is referred to as the Freezer Bowl.

In Super Bowl XVI on January 24, 1982, in Pontiac, Michigan, the Bengals trailed 20–0 at halftime and lost to San Francisco, 26–21.


Before the season, the Bengals unveiled new uniforms with tiger-striped helmets, jerseys and pants.

AFC Divisional Playoff

  • January 3 Buffalo W 28–21 55,420 Riverfront
  • AFC Championship Game

  • Freezer Bowl January 10 San Diego W 27–7 46,302 Riverfront
  • Super Bowl

  • Super Bowl XVI January 24 San Francisco L 21–26 81,270 Pontiac Silverdome
  • Awards and records

  • Ken Anderson, NFL MVP
  • Ken Anderson, Bert Bell Award
  • Ken Anderson, Franchise Record (since broken), Touchdown Passes, 29 Passes
  • Ken Anderson, Led NFL, Passer Rating, 98.4 Rating
  • Milestones

  • Ken Anderson, Franchise Record (since broken), Most Touchdown Passes in One Season, 29 Passes
  • Cris Collinsworth, 1st 1,000 Yard Receiving Season (1,009 yards)
  • Pete Johnson, 1,000 Yard Rushing Season (1,077 yards)
  • References

    1981 Cincinnati Bengals season Wikipedia