TDBH: Bengals blank NFC Central champ Vikes to eye AFC Central lead

Posted Dec 1, 2017

This Day in Bengals History - December 2, 1973

The rampaging Viking are 10-1, already NFC Central champs, and headed to the Super Bowl next month. But a funny thing happened on the way to the big game today at Riverfront Stadium. They run into the Bengals’ defensive juggernaut locked in a desperate three-way race in the AFC Central and are shut out in stunning fashion for the first time in 12 years and 160 games, 27-0, as the 8-4 Bengals are poised to go into next week’s game against the Browns tied with the Steelers for first place and barely in front of 7-3-2 Cleveland. After Bengals cornerbacks Ken Riley and Lemar Parrish shut out dangerous wide receiver John Gilliam and the front seven holds presumptive NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Chuck Foreman to 36 yards rushing and chases Hall-of-Fame scrambler Fran Tarkenton out of the pocket to the bench in the fourth quarter, head coach Paul Brown realizes the heavily-favored Vikes were actually at a disadvantage. “I’ve been in the spot before where we had already won it. It’s a loss that didn’t hurt them, but we were fighting for our lives. It’s a seething situation that’s very difficult ... The defense was the keynote of the game. That’s their world when they can shut out a team they respect.” Miffed that he loses his starting job this season, veteran linebacker Ken Avery fuels the Bengals’ second shutout ever when he fills in for the injured Ron Pritchard and forces two huge turnovers.

The first one late in the first half drives Vikings running back Ed Marinaro from the game with a hip injury when Avery runs past blocking back Bill Brown and separates the handoff from Marinaro. Parrish, who already in his career has scored on an interception, kick return, and punt return,  picks up the ball and races 23 yards with the fumble for his incredible ninth touchdown in his fourth season on defense. “I’m always thinking six, baby,” Parrish says after he gives the Bengals a 10-0 half-time lead. Then early in the third quarter Avery pops the ball from the unfortunate Brown after he makes a seven-yard catch down the middle and linebacker Bill Bergey makes a leaping catch off the rebound at the Vikings 40. On the next snap running back Essex Johnson runs a delay up the middle, cuts to the right, and outruns cornerback Nate Wright to the end zone for a 17-0 lead and Avery is left shaking his head at his missed tackle. “I got just enough,” Avery says and notes Bergey has made him look like a champ instead of a chump. “I always wanted the play-off money. This is the team that can do it and this is the year.”

That’s about all the Vikes can get. Of their 16 completions, 12 go to running backs as Gilliam fails to add to his line of 39 catches and 857 yards. Kicker Fred Cox can’t add to his NFL record 152 straight games scoring at least a point when he misses a 49-yard field goal. Naturally, the Bengals’ Jim Breech breaks his record 27 years later. Tarkenton is gone in the fourth quarter when Bob Berry mops up. Carl Eller, the Minnesota All-Pro defensive end, calls his team “a disgrace,” and says they should all be fined. “Astronomical,” Mike Reid says of the odds of shutting out Minnesota. Reid’s partner at D-Tackle, Ron Carpenter, agrees. “They don’t go that high.” But the zero is on the Riverfront scoreboard and the Bengals are about to go into first when Miami beats Pittsburgh tomorrow night. “No sacks, no fumbles, no interceptions,” says center Bob Johnson. “If you can do that against Minnesota you can do it against anybody.”


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