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Top 50 Moments: Ickey Shuffle Dance Marathon Continues in AFC Title Game

Posted Oct 31, 2017

This dance marathon known as the 1988 season keeps taking another step and Ickey Woods saves the last dance for the Bengals when he leads a punishing running attack to victory in an AFC title game filed with controversy and cunning. Even though his "No Huddle" has been outlawed by NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle two hours before the Jan. 8, 1989 game, Bengals head coach Sam Wyche is still clever enough to hatch a 21-10 win over the Bills and get carried off the Riverfront Stadium turf to Miami and a date against mentor Bill Walsh in Super Bowl XXIII.

This dance marathon known as the 1988 season keeps taking another step and Ickey Woods saves the last dance for the Bengals when he leads a punishing running attack to victory in an AFC title game filed with controversy and cunning.

Even though his "No Huddle" has been outlawed by NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle two hours before the Jan. 8, 1989 game, Bengals head coach Sam Wyche is still clever enough to hatch a 21-10 win over the Bills and get carried off the Riverfront Stadium turf to Miami and a date against mentor Bill Walsh in Super Bowl XXIII.

"It's so much sweeter the second time around," says Pro Bowl guard Max Montoya, one of seven Bengals who get a chance at redemption for their loss to Walsh's 49ers in Super Bowl XVI.

Sweet, too, for 80-year-old owner Paul Brown. With eyes both glistening and twinkling, he accepts the AFC trophy, and after thanking the players and coaches says, "I'm happy to get a second chance. A guy like yours truly might not be able to wait 20, 25 years."

The win is another sweet moment in Woods' storybook rookie season. For the sixth time in nine games he breaks 100 yards and his "Ickey Shuffle" touchdown dance bookends the day's scoring. His one-yard run in the first quarter and his one-yarder on the first play of the fourth quarter unleashes the celebration that has become a national craze.

"It's wild looking around and seeing everyone do the dance you primarily created," says Woods, the day before a kid in Miami named Chad turns 10 years old.

Woods' second touchdown comes seven plays after the Bengals fake the Bills out of their shoes on fourth-and-four from the Cincinnati 33 and the Bengals clinging to a 14-10 lead. The Bengals make Buffalo think they are going to punt by sending punter Lee Johnson and long snapper Ed Brady on the field.

But they keep their huge offensive line out there against the Bills' small punt team and backup quarterback Turk Schonert ducks behind center, calls "Shift," takes a snap, and hands to fullback Stanley Wilson for a six-yard gain to keep the drive alive.

"They were running around like chickens with their heads cut off," says center Bruce Kozerski, and, naturally, two Cincinnati kids on the Bills special teams—Mount Healthy's Wayne Davis and Highland Heights' Mark Pike—see it up close.

"We had never seen them come out in an offensive situation," Davis says. "They did a good job faking us on that one."

But the play of the offensive line was very real. While quarterback Boomer Esiason had to pass only 20 times for 94 yards, the Bengals jackhammered the Bills on 50 carries for 175 yards as Woods bucked it 29 times for 102 yards. It not only neutralized Bills sack ace Bruce Smith in his Hall of Fame matchup with left tackle Anthony Munoz, but it also took the ball out of the hands of another future Hall of Famer in Bills quarterback Jim Kelly as the Bengals kept the ball for 39:29.

"I'll never forget when the Houston Oilers called us a finesse team," Esiason says. "We're not. We pound the ball."

Wyche claims the NFL office tries to take the ball out his hands virtually just before kickoff, telling him that if the referees believe that either team is using a quick snap in order to catch the defense with too many men on the field, it will call a penalty.

The Bills have threatened to do what Seattle did the previous week at Riverfront and fake injury so they can regroup. The league argues the Bengals can still run the No-Huddle, but Wyche says it strikes at the very heart of the scheme's concept. Which is to create mismatches by not allowing the other team to substitute.

"Our style of play has been legal for 17 solid weeks," Wyche says. "We've used it for three and a half years. It is within the spirit of the rule as well as the letter of the law." P>Wyche, in the glow of victory with a microphone in one hand and an unlit cigar in the other, is taking on the Bills and the NFL. He compares the ruling to a store that gets robbed and the police tell them to close it at 6:30 because they are more vulnerable at night.

Brown, a member of the NFL Competition Committee, is also upset at the timing.

"How this developed like it did is disconcerting," Brown says. "It is very late to have a football team change what it has been doing for years."

Bill coach Marv Levy wins the debate because it allows him to substitute his nickel package. But when the Bills can't stop the run, it has no impact and Esiason even waits a few times to run the ball against the nickel.

Woods and his friends can't wait to celebrate. Late in the fourth quarter he and The SWAT Team, the secondary that has come up with three interceptions of Kelly on this day, is trying out a new wrinkle with The Shuffle that Woods and Pro Bowl cornerback Eric Thomas perfected on the dance floor.

Cornerback Lewis Billups set up Woods' first touchdown with an interception and Pro Bowl safety David Fulcher pretty much seals it on an end-zone interception with 8:07 left.

"Woo, Woo," says Woods, twirling a finger around as he does The Shuffle for the media after the 59,747 orange-and-black crazed worshippers scream their approval.

They are still out there in the stands, hoping this is one long slow dance.

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