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NFL '97 / WEEK 1 | CINCINNATI 24, ARIZONA 21

It Breaks Just Right for Bengals

September 01, 1997|From Associated Press

CINCINNATI — All the Cincinnati Bengals wanted was a little time to work a little magic. Larry Centers gave it to them.

Centers fumbled away a chance to run the clock down Sunday and Jeff Blake took it from there. Working with no timeouts, he led the Bengals down the field with sideline completions and threw a six-yard touchdown pass to Carl Pickens with 38 seconds left for a 24-21 victory over the stunned Arizona Cardinals.

After getting thoroughly outplayed and booed by the less-than-capacity crowd for three quarters, Cincinnati scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter for yet another stirring finish under Coach Bruce Coslet.

"You couldn't have ordered a Disney strip better than that," tight end Tony McGee said.

For three quarters, the Bengals looked nothing like the team that finished 7-2 and undefeated in five home games last season under Coslet. The Cardinals built a 21-3 lead early in the third quarter as Kent Graham picked apart their 3-4 zone-blitz defense and Blake repeatedly made bad decisions and bad throws.

Ki-Jana Carter's one-yard run cut it to 21-16 with 2:14 left, but the Bengals were out of timeouts and all the Cardinals had to do was run three plays, punt and knock down a desperation pass or two.

Instead, the sure-handed Centers, a Pro Bowler who led NFL running backs in receiving last season, was stripped of the ball at the Bengal 37-yard line with 1:10 remaining as he stretched to get a couple of unnecessary yards on third down.

"I don't know if you can start to explain this one," Centers said. "I don't think that was a very professional play on my part. I saw some daylight. All I had to do was hold onto the ball. I fumbled and caused my team to lose the game. I take full responsibility for losing this game."

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