TDBH: Kitna’s TD pass with 13 seconds left keeps worst-to-first Bengals in AFC North lead

Posted Nov 29, 2017

This Day in Bengals History - November 30, 2003

PITTSBURGH - Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna, the future high school math teacher, mulls the statistical probabilities after his 18-yard seed to tight end Matt Schobel with 13 seconds left today at Heinz Field suddenly gives the Bengals a 24-20 victory over the Steelers that keeps them in first place in the AFC North at 7-5 with the Baltimore team they play on the road next Sunday. "There was no probability," Kitna says. "You saw us when we left Buffalo. It was the lowest of the lows. But when God starts to move, unbelievable things happen."  The Bengals seem to be moving to destiny in Marvin Lewis' first year as head coach. After Lewis responds to Pittsburgh's score in the final minute with, "Let's go for the win," Kitna recalls how the Bengals left Buffalo after the loss in last year's finale secured the worst record in club history at 2-14. But since they left Buffalo eight weeks ago after a 22-16 overtime loss, Lewis and Kinta have them believing and winning six of their last seven while Kitna has rung up 16 touchdowns against three interceptions. The Bengals have seven victories for the first time since Boomer Esiason's stretch run in 1997 and Kitna is outBoomering Boomer with 18 touchdowns and one interception in the seven wins.  "Pro Bowl," says wide receiver Chad Johnson as he whistles. "Pro Bowl."  "The stuff that (Kitna) does that makes us better as an offense other than throwing the football is just endless. Endless," Lewis says. "As far as directing guys, getting them in the right places. It is just tremendous. Obviously that football team believes in him and it is fun to watch."

Maybe the most important thing that happens today is the calling card left by Lewis, a Pittsburgh guy from nearby McDonald. Last year the Steelers were 6-0 in the North and until today had won nine of 10 North games over the last two years. The Bengals, 0-6 in the division last year, are now 3-1. The balance of power now has to include Cincinnati.  "When they scored with a minute left, this team would have gone into the tank," says Bengals cornerback Artrell Hawkins, another Greater Pittsburgh guy, from Johnstown. "This team would have hung their heads. (But) we came off the sidelines (and said), 'you've got to go out to score. We've got to win this.' “The Steelers take their first lead at 20-17 with 1:05 left in the game on Tommy Maddox's 16-yard touchdown pass to Hines Ward. With Baltimore pounding the 49ers, the ride looks to be over. The Steelers would win, the Bengals would fall a game behind the ….

But. Steelers kicker Jeff Reed hits the ball too high into the wind on the kickoff. But. Brandon Bennett gets his longest return in weeks on a 27-yarder by the NFL’s lowest-ranked return team. But. Kitna hits wide receiver Peter Warrick for 18 yards to put the Bengals on the Steelers 34 with 34 seconds left. Kitna then calls the next play at the line and takes the Steelers by surprise with a 16-yard draw to Bennett. "Great call," says right tackle Willie Anderson. "They went right behind (center Rich Braham) and (right guard) Mike Goff, and the Steelers were coming after us on the pass rush." Schobel thinks the draw helps freeze the linebackers on his play two snaps later. Steelers inside linebacker James Farrior admits he doesn’t drop deep enough on the touchdown pass. On second down offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski calls the same play. Four receivers running vertical routes down the seams of zone coverage. "I just told (Kitna), 'Be careful,' and I trusted him," Bratkowski says. With Kitna and Lewis, there’s a lot of that going around Bengaldom these days.

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