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TDBH: No. 7 goes out on 77-yard fling to beat Marvin’s Ravens

Posted Dec 20, 2017

This Day in Bengals History - December 21, 1997

Quarterback Boomer Esiason closes out his reunion tour at today’s season finale with a final salute to the Riverfront Stadium faithful. On his last pass of the game No. 7 unfurls a 77-yard touchdown bomb to wide receiver Darnay Scott with 3:41 left to put away a 16-14 victory over the Ravens that shocks the Bengals into the offseason with volts of optimism when a 6-2 finish cushions a 1-7 start. “We’re going to come into next year the hottest thing going,” says punter Lee Johnson. Even Jeff Blake, the guy that lost his job to Esiason five weeks ago allows, “I just wish we were in this thing. The way we’re playing now I think we could make a run for it.” The Baltimore defense, coached by future Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, proves to be a tough bend-but-don’t-break outfit that finally relents under Esiason’s withering 105 passer rating that is a mirror of what the remarkable 36-year-old does since he takes over for Blake.

Lewis hits him more than anyone does in this dream comeback with three sacks. But Esiason gets his fourth win in five starts and does it on 24 of 35 passing for 254 yards and two TDs. It leaves him with 13 touchdowns and two interceptions for what is supposed to be a ride-into-the-sunset season backing up Blake and the Bengals and their fans calling for more at the end of his one-year deal. With the networks luring him to the TV booth, Esiason can’t say yes or no. “I wish I could give you an answer by Feb. 15 or April 15. Tax Day. That would be an important deadline,” Esiason says. He emerges from the locker room to find son Gunnar, 6, and daughter Sydney, 5, and asks them what he should do. When they say, “I don’t know,” dad doesn’t either. “Whether it’s him and Jeff fighting it out in the preseason or whether he’s going to be the man, you’d be crazy not to want him back,” says right tackle Willie Anderson, echoing a young locker room hungering for his leadership. “We feed off his energy … He goes into a game with a boxing mentality. ‘I’m going to go in and knock somebody out.’”

But Esiason is punched out. It takes less than a month and industry heavyweight Monday Night Football wins his services. It turns out that the Bengals’ 1988 NFL MVP and three-time Pro Bowler has had a Ted Williams moment and homered in his last at-bat from 77 yards away.

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