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CINCINNATI -- The same feelings of shame and anger that bubbled inside him during a Cincinnati Bengals playoff game nearly two years ago clouded Giovani Bernard's mind at times last week.
But when they did this time around, they served as game-week motivation as he prepared for a grudge match against the team that took advantage of one of his biggest career miscues, turning it into a momentum-turning instant in a playoff win that should have been his team's.
"I thought about that watching all those damn games this week," Bernard said.
"It" was the fumble that negated a near-touchdown he was close to scoring halfway through the Bengals' wild-card round loss to the San Diego Chargers after the 2013 season.
Just two minutes shy of halftime of that game, Bernard caught a 12-yard pass from quarterback Andy Dalton that positioned the Bengals perfectly for a score. He was just four yards away from the goal line when he was pulled down from behind, stripped of the ball in the process.
The Chargers recovered, stole the game's momentum and played keep-away just long enough for the rest of the half to keep the Bengals out of the end zone. They never would make it there the rest of the game, making a few questionable game-plan decisions along the way and having a series of drops and other turnovers that quickly turned the game into a loss.
No, Bernard's fumble didn't specifically cause Cincinnati to lose, but it was arguably a precipitating moment to the avalanche of disappointment that soon followed.
As a result, when he watched the Bengals' existing game tape of the Chargers entering Sunday's game, Bernard couldn't help but relive his turnover. Even after Sunday's redemptive 24-19 win over San Diego, Bernard contends he still will be thinking about that fumble.
"It's something that still burns in my belly," Bernard said. "This game's not going to mean that I don't think about that play at all."
But it should help douse some of the flames flickering within.
As he finished the final five drives of the game playing mostly in relief of starting running back Jeremy Hill, Bernard had a 20-carry, 123-yard outing that punctuated the Bengals' win Sunday. It was poetic justice considering the way his last outing against the Chargers went.
Bernard said he wasn't thinking about the fumble at all during Sunday's game, but as he readied himself all last week, it did serve as just the reminder he needed.
"Everything in life, there's always a reminder for something," Bernard said.
If the Bengals want to get more production from Bernard like he had in this outing, maybe they should consider reminding him of the fumble more often.
Coley Harvey | ESPN.com | September 20, 2015