TDBH: Passing of torch as Boomer and Fouts light up Riverfront

Posted Sep 21, 2017

This Day in Bengals History - September 22, 1985

No one wants to say it but the trappings of change are all-around today at Riverfront Stadium when the Bengals and Chargers both stage the highest-scoring game in their histories. Even though Ken Anderson is healthy and starts their first two games, the club’s all-time leading passer is a scratch for the first time since his rookie season 14 years ago. He watches heir apparent Boomer Esiason barely lose a duel with Hall-of-Fame quarterback Dan Fouts with four seconds left when San Diego’s Bob Thomas kicks a 34-yard field goal for a 44-41 victory. While Fouts unleashes a barrage of 344 yards and four touchdowns, Esiason responds in his fifth NFL start with 320 yards and three TD passes. Since it is Esiason’s first start of a winless season and both Anderson and Turk Schonert are healthy, and even though head coach Sam Wyche won’t say it, it appears the move has been made to the second-rounder from Maryland. “I’m walking on egg shells here,” says Esiason after the game, respectful of Anderson and best friends with Schonert, “I’m the young guy on the totem pole so I have to take it easy.”

Instead of naming Esiason the starter after the game, Wyche announces he’s closing Friday and Saturday practices to the media after his plan to start Esiason is revealed in advance. “The reason we didn’t announce anything is it gives you an edge. Maybe a  two -percent edge,” Wyche says. “That’s why I’m upset and get upset when we allow people to watch our practices and then they let the world and the opponent know virtually what you’re doing … that hurts our chances. It doesn’t decide the game, but affects the edge we might have had.” What decides the game is a Bengals defense allowing 40 points in back-to-back games for the first time ever in falling to 0-3. Cornerback Louis Breeden admits it’s the lowest he’s ever seen the defense in his eight seasons. “We’re just not giving our offense a chance,” Breeden says. “I’d be embarrassed to ask our offense to do anything more,” says linebacker Glenn Cameron.

There are almost as many signs of the end of the Anderson Era as there are points. During the long day Fouts passes Anderson into third-place on the NFL’s all-time completions list. During a half-time ceremony Anderson’s favorite target, wide receiver Isaac Curtis, retires after 12 seasons as the franchise’s all-time leading receiver. “It hard to explain this feeling,” Curtis says to the crowd, “but I’ll never for forget it.” When the Bengals get down 10 points early, it is Schonert up throwing on the side while Anderson keeps on his ball cap. It turns out Anderson never starts another game and retires after the 1986 season as today Esiason starts a string of 97 straight starts that don’t include the 1987 strike games.

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