Seahawks can’t fake it as Bengals power into AFC title game

Posted Dec 30, 2017

This Day in Bengals History - December 31, 1988

Coaching in his first play-off game, the Bengals’ Sam Wyche checkmates Seattle’s Chuck Knox and his 11 years of post-season experience with overwhelming play in the trenches during today’s 21-13 AFC divisional victory in the din of Riverfront Stadium that lifts Cincinnati into next Sunday’s AFC title game on the river against tomorrow’s Oilers-Bills winner to be decided in Buffalo. It doesn’t matter that the Bengals had to replace Joe Walter with Brian Blados when their Pro Bowl caliber right tackle went down with an ACL tear in the finale or that left guard Bruce Reimers had to favor a tender ankle. They still rush for a season-high 254 yards and Ickey Woods still Shuffles with 126 yards and a touchdown as the Bengals jump to a 21-0 half-time lead. Stanley Wilson, the injured back that Woods replaces on Oct. 2 when he rips the Jets for more than 100 yards, has his most extensive playing time since September with 46 yards on an economical seven carries and has the populace thinking about a devastating Woods-Wilson combo in the Super Bowl. But Wilson reflects the esprit de corps winning breeds when he says later, “Coach told me I’d get a little more time (this week),” Wilson says. “But when a man has been running the way Ickey has, you don’t have to change that.”

Meanwhile, the rush defense is just as impressive gobbling up “Ground Chuck,” Seattle’s scheme ranked 10th in the league running the ball manned by estimable running backs John L. Williams and Curt Warner. The Bengals hold them to 18 yards (absolute zero at half) after hearing for a week how Seattle would gash them. Instead it’s the fewest rushing yards ever allowed by the Bengals and gained by the Seahawks. “Everybody talked about how Seattle had a great running attack and they’re going to rush for over 300 yards and the score is going to be 48-to-49,” says Bengals linebacker Joe Kelly. “Hey, that’s like somebody coming into your house and saying, ‘I’m going to take your TV.’ You’re not going to let them do that.”

Instead the TV, led by analyst Don Shula, the Dolphins head coach and member of the NFL competition committee, questions how the Seattle defense is stopping the Bengals’ no huddle offense on third down by appearing to fake injuries. Seattle needs to get its third-down nickel package on the field and six times the  nose-tackle tandem of Joe Nash (four) and Ken Clarke (two) go down with an injury and play is stopped, allowing Seattle to substitute. Some try to explain it, like Knox. “You saw our trainers and our doctors go up there,” he says.  Others are pretty up front. “It was pretty critical for us,” says safety Paul Moyer. “Their hurry-up offense didn’t hurt us. Every time we needed to get our nickel players on the field, Joe’s knees were bothering him and we got our people on.” “But wasn’t it his calves instead of his knees? “I think it was both,” Moyer says.  The Bengals don’t buy it, long before replay and substitution rules. “Give him credit,’ says center Bruce Kozerski. “He felt bad about it. He didn’t come out and say so. But you could see it in his eyes. (Seattle D-lineman) Jacob Green said (Nash) was told to do it. “That’s not real big-league football. He’s not even a good actor. He’s a good football player, but not an actor.” Wyche has no problem with Knox’s strategy. He knows there are no rules governing the no huddle. After all, that’s why he invented it. “There is certainly no defense against that,” Wyche says, “The officials were well aware of it. They were saying there is nothing you can do against it. There are no rules against it. Just as we took advantage of the rules with our no huddle, so did they … Smart coaching by the Seahawks.” Quarterback Boomer Esiason, as always has the final word: “I think Nash is going to have a long time to let his knee heal.”



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