Former Cincinnati Bengals All-Pro wide receiver Cris Collinsworth is preparing to perform under the biggest spotlight of his life as the lone analyst for NBC's coverage of Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday. Along with Al Michaels doing the play-by-play, Collinsworth's analysis will be heard by hundreds of millions of fans (and dissected by thousands of critics) across the world.
“It’s like someone takes a bucket of ice water and pours it over your head and you never get warmed up. I’m 53 years old, and I still think about it every day,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade playing in it for anything, but the pain of losing those two was twice as bad."
Collinsworth was the Bengals' second round pick out of Florida in 1981. He set the team's rookie receiving record (broken this season by AJ Green) with 1009 yards as the Bengals went 12-4 on their way to the team's first appearance in a Super Bowl. Down 20-0 at halftime to the 49ers, Collinsworth said head coach Forrest Gregg just told them to relax, that they "couldn't screw it up any worse." The team fell short in their comeback attempt as the Niners prevailed 26-21.
Collinsworth and the Bengals would return to the Super Bowl following the 1988 season and again were thwarted by Joe Montana and the 49ers, this time 20-16 when Joe Montana found John Taylor for a touchdown with just 34 seconds on the clock. Because of that, Collinsworth can sympathize with what Tom Brady and the Patriots are feeling as they try to avenge their 2007 loss to the Giants.
“Does anyone talk about the ’07 Patriots being the best team ever? No. When you lose that game in the last two minutes, what it took away from that legacy of the franchise and that team, they’ll never get over it. How much of our perception of NFL history has changed with that drive? If they won their fifth championship here, it would have been the greatest run of all time. That drive has changed the history of the game.”
The Patriots have a chance to do something Collinsworth couldn't though, avenge themselves. For Collinsworth, the loss in Super Bowl XXIII was his last game as a professional. The Bengals' teams he played on with Ken Anderson and Boomer Esiason were some of the most explosive offensive teams of the era. Yet because they lost in the biggest game, hardly anyone remembers them for that.
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