The 2009-2010 NFL season arrived in Cincinnati with the normal level of anticipation, tail gating and optimism for a team whose offseason has been as or more productive and trouble free than any in the last fifteen years. The team earned strong reviews and critical acclaim for an outstanding reality show on cable television, signed a number of quality free agents and re-signed their own key potential walk-aways. With that as a backdrop the most beleaguered team in the league made its way to Paul Brown Stadium for a one o’clock kickoff. The Bengals won the toss. Luck has finally decided to go our way.
The first half featured normal first game rust, jitters, poor timing and miscues by both teams but the Bengals were clearly the sharper team as they broke up passes, pressured Denver quarterback Kyle Orton and covered Brandon Marshall like a blanket. On offense the Bengals moved the ball at will until it was time to get inside the thirty yard line when the proverbial wheels got stuck in the mud. The offensive line, a source of some pre-season apprehension was blowing open big holes for the hard pounding Cedric Benson and Carson Palmer had time to make decisions and get the ball to his highly touted receiving corps. The confidence was running so high that they lined up for a short fourth down in a punt formation with no punter and Brian Leonard shuffled his way for a nice gainer. We then met our new mascot for this year…Mr. Murphy. He began his all too familiar chant of “whatever can go wrong…will go wrong” as they lined up for a chip shot field goal at the eleven yard line. And wouldn’t you know it, they television crew has the 2006 Christmas Eve game cued up…then one where a bad snap on an extra point cost the team a playoff spot…and like clockwork the snap sailed high and through the hands of punter Kevin Huber, skipped along the ground and recovered by a rugby scrum resulting in Denver ball.
The Broncos looked just about like a team that had frittered away its star quarterback, suspended its best receiver for being a malcontent, hired a first year head coach with a bottom of the league defense from a year ago and had no discernable direction for its future or its present. They were disorganized, seemingly distracted and out of sorts as easy passes were dropped, men were left wide open and tackles were missed. The Bengals outplayed them by every measure except where it counted…the scoreboard. The first quarter ended scoreless and Denver got close enough to make the halftime tally a terribly unimpressive 6-0 in favor of the road squad.
The second half featured more of the same. The Bengals moved the ball well only to stall when it came time to finish it off. The defenders in stripes were hitting harder as a unit then we’ve seen in years led by Chris Crocker, Roy Williams and Keith Rivers. Denver continued to sputter. The Bengals finally put a drive together as the game wound down. They started on their own nine yard line, had a nice mix of pass and run for ninety one yards which culminated in a Cedric Benson plunge into the end zone for the first touchdown in Paul Brown Stadium this season which created a tie game and set up the most pressurized extra point in the history of pro football. The tension in the stadium was obvious. He made it!
There was a long delay in the proceedings as the officials discussed the clock with Denver coaches. They wrongly put eighteen seconds back on the clock, which eventually came into play big time and will probably lead to one of those “we messed up” letters from the league. Hold ‘em for thirty eight seconds and we’ve got a win. Right?
Wrong. Here comes Murphy! Remember Murphy?
The Broncos tried a few quick passes, one of which seemed to intercepted by cornerback Jonathan Joseph and was erroneously called out of bounds, not challenged by the Bengals, the last of which was headed into traffic. Three Bengals were there, Leon Hall leaped and tipped the ball high in the air…seemingly out of nowhere Brandon Stokley, who had been held to zero catches all day, made this one and out raced everyone to the end zone and even took the opportunity to run down the end line to run off a few of those extra seconds that were added earlier. One big toss by Palmer was all that was left before the Broncos put the 12-7 win in their pocket and left town with the stadium and every Bengal fan in the world feeling like they were just slammed in the stomach with a sledgehammer. The Bengals show again, whatever can go wrong…seems to go wrong for this team. Unbelievable.
About the Author
Written by Daryl Miller
I'm a lifelong sports fan. From short track auto racing, hockey, baseball, football and everything else...I love it.