TDBH: Leonard Leap cuts down Super Bowl champ Steelers in fourth quarter comeback

Posted Sep 26, 2017

This Day in Bengals History - September 27, 2009

The unheralded Bengals, grinding in the shadow of a four-win season, serve notice today they are in it for the long haul when they catch the defending Super Bowl champion Steelers with 14 seconds left at Paul Brown Stadium on quarterback Carson Palmer’s four-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Andre Caldwell for a 23-20 victory that is one of their most improbable, gutty, and gut-wrenching wins in their history. It is also Pittsburgh native Marvin Lewis’s first home victory over the Steelers in his 100th game as Bengals head coach and Cincinnati's first win over its arch-rivals in three years and three days and first at PBS since Dec. 30, 2001. Wide receiver Chad Ocho Cinco wires the locker room with the Sam Cooke ballad “It’s Been a Long Time Coming,” that also captures the long day. They have no right to be in a game they trail, 20-9, with 9:20 left after getting no yards in the first quarter, getting outgained by 220 yards in the first three quarters, missing an extra point on a high snap, and converting only 25 percent of their third downs. But cornerback Johnathan Joseph jump-starts the comeback with a pick-six of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on the first series of the second half.

“Because they’re a bunch of castoffs, you know,” Lewis says of why he enjoys this team, now a surprising 2-1. “They’re grinders. They’re football players, and that’s the fun of it. Bringing together a group of guys that understands what a team is all about is enjoyable.” Safety Chris Crocker is the personification of it all. After joining the team off the couch in mid-season last year, he’s become a leader of the culture change and today he’s all over the place with seven tackles, a pass defensed, and late in the third quarter he calls his own number in punt formation at his 38 and runs 21 yards to establish field position. “They were doing a lot of talking,” says Crocker of the Steelers and he says wide receiver Hines Ward is the loudest. “He said, ‘Same old Bengals. Same old Bengals. You all sorry.’ … We’re not the same old Bengals. We’re not. If you can’t see that, you’re blind. You know 86 runs his mouth. That’s all right. I had a few words with him.” The offensive personification of this hardscrabble club is third down running back/special teams ace Brian Leonard, picked up in a May trade with St. Louis.

On fourth-and-10 from the 15 with 36 seconds left, Palmer gets flushed because he can’t find a wide out right away. But there is Leonard moving across the middle to the sideline. “I’m the last guy. I’m the check down, so I’m the last of his four progressions,” Leonard says. “I knew I wanted to be at the five. I think the stick was at the six. That’s how I gauge it.  If I get to that line.” Linebacker James Farrior has the angle on Leonard after he catches the ball underneath, but Leonard says it is man-to-man coverage so he cuts it to the outside and gives a little jump at the end to get to the stick. It’s reminder of his signature move at Rutgers they called “The Leonard Leap. “I didn’t think I could score a touchdown but I knew I could get the first down so I got a little extra jump,” he says. “Carson showed a lot of poise going through his progressions.” There is something about these Bengals. Crocker catches The Ocho’s eye and says above Sam Cooke, “The game’s not over until you kiss the baby.”

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