CINCINNATI — The banning of their quick-snap offense proved to be more of an incentive than a setback for the Cincinnati Bengals.
The NFL informed the Bengals less than two hours before their 21-10 AFC Championship victory over Buffalo on Sunday that they could not use their quick-snap tactic to try to trap the defense with too many men on the field.
The Bengals were outraged. But instead of sulking, they used it to their advantage, according to Coach Sam Wyche.
"The team didn't need much more to rally around, but it certainly was another hook to be angry about the situation," Wyche said.
"Any time you get upset, you use that to your advantage," nose tackle Tim Krumrie said. "That's what we did."
League officials decided late Saturday night that they would not allow the Bengals to use the quick-snap tactic employed this season. The tactic is designed to catch the opposing defense with too many players on the field.
The Bengals use it as part of their no-huddle offense. They gather near the line of scrimmage--in what they call their "sugar huddle"--then set up quickly and snap the ball if they see the opponent starting to make defensive substitutions.
The no-huddle approach is designed to prevent defenses from bringing in extra defensive backs or different linemen or linebackers for the next play. The Bengals use the no-huddle much more than any other NFL team--about 50% of the time, Wyche estimates.
The Bengals were permitted to use the no-huddle, which they did frequently at the start of the game Sunday. But they were told they would be penalized if they tried a quick-snap.
Wyche said he learned just before the game Sunday that the quick-snap would be outlawed. He reacted angrily.
"If I can describe it this way, two teams played in this championship game. . . . Both of them came here with their style of play. Our style of play has been legal for 17 solid weeks," he said.
Wyche said Art McNally, the league's supervisor of officials, had reassured him repeatedly this season that the quick snap "is perfectly legal, there is nothing wrong with it, it is within the spirit of the rule as well as the letter of the rule."
Buffalo coach Marv Levy had questioned the legality of the quick-snap last week and hinted that the Bills could use the Seattle Seahawks' strategy of having players go down with apparent injuries to counteract the strategy and give the defense time to change.
"Because Marv Levy threatened to make a sham of the game by doing it again, they penalize the team that was doing something that they have been doing, that got us to the playoffs, that was exciting, I think innovative, something that other coaches think is OK," Wyche said.
"It's not fair. It's not right."