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TDBH: Bengals dominate Battle of Ohio until last minute

Posted Oct 16, 2017

This Day in Bengals History - October 17, 1971

Despite completing less than half his 21 passes and throwing an interception without a touchdown, Bengals rookie quarterback Ken Anderson is on the verge of claiming his first NFL victory in his second start today in front of a Riverfront Stadium record crowd of 60,284. But the Cleveland stars show up just in the nick of time to grab their only lead of the day with 44 seconds left on running back Bo Scott’s four-yard touchdown run that hands the Bengals a very bitter 27-24 loss that looms even larger at the end of the year when the Browns win the AFC Central at 9-5 and the defending champion Bengals go 4-10. “They came through when the chips were down there at the end and that’s the mark of a great team,” says Bengals head coach Paul Brown with a stiff upper lip after his old team steals one from him on his home turf. “We gave them our best effort.”

In fact, the effort is so good the Bengals should win going away even though Anderson struggles. That’s because his backs run wild as Essex Johnson races for 98 yards on 15 carries and Jess Phillips for 87 more on just 13 tries. When “The Express,” rolls one of them out for a 49-yard touchdown with nine minutes left in the game, it appears to tear the heart out of the Browns and give the Bengals a 24-13 lead. But then comes one of those “boo-boos,” Brown regrets in his post-game remarks. Anderson fails to protect the ball deep in his own end and when he gets the ball punched out in the pocket Cleveland’s Jack Gregory recovers the fumble at the Bengals 10 and Browns quarterback Bill Nelson wastes no time cutting the lead to 24-20 when he hits Ohio State’s ever-present Scott on a seven-yard TD pass with 5:31 left.

Still, when Nelson gets the ball back at his own 48 with 2:21 left, he’s facing a Bengals defense that has held leading receiver Gary Collins to one catch for seven yards (take a bow, second-year cornerback Lemar Parrish) and leading rusher Leroy Kelly to 17 yards on 10 carries. But on third-and-four from the Bengals 33 with 1:22 left, Collins gets loose for a 17-yard gain and Kelly breaks a quick trap for seven more to set up Scott’s winning TD. “We ran that a few times and it didn’t go anywhere,” says an amazed Nelson of Kelly’s run. “We must have caught them in the right defense.” Collins, who predicted early in the week he’d have a good game against Parrish, reports he ran the route on safety Sandy Durko. Collins refuses to admit Parrish shut him out and by the end of the year he retires after making just 15 catches and Parrish goes to the second of his eight Pro Bowls. “All I know is 27-24. That’s all that matters,” Collins says and Bengals linebacker Bill Peterson agrees: “It’s the greatest heartbreaker I’ve ever been in.”

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