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Top 50 Moments: March to Super Bowl XVI Begins with Comeback Win

Posted Oct 10, 2017

The march to the first Super Bowl starts off quietly and obscurely on Sept. 6 in front of an intimate gathering of 41,177 at Riverfront in the 1981 regular season opener.

The march to the first Super Bowl starts off quietly and obscurely on Sept. 6 in front of an intimate gathering of 41,177 at Riverfront in the 1981 regular season opener. With his team trailing Seattle 21-0 late in the first quarter, head coach Forrest Gregg doesn't bat an eye in pulling franchise quarterback Ken Anderson after watching him complete just five of 15 passes for 39 yards.

With Anderson's projected successor Jack Thompson hurting, Gregg improbably turns to second-year Stanford quarterback Turk Schonert in what may save the season before it even starts. After fumbling away a snap, Schonert completes just nine of his first 18 NFL passes for 130 yards but doesn't throw an interception and swashbuckles to 41 yards on seven bolts from the pocket as he rallies the Bengals to a 27-21 victory.

Schonert guides a running game that pounds the Seahawks for 210 yards, 84 coming from Pete Johnson and Johnson's two-yard smash caps the comeback with just under six minutes left in the game. Johnson, future TV icon Cris Collinsworth's four catches for 65 yards and a defense that forces four turnovers (one a Bo Harris interception) counter future Hall of Fame wide receiver and congressman Steve Largent's 114 yards.

Two days later, Anderson convinces Gregg to start him in New York against the Jets and he leads a 31-30 victory that propels him to the 1981 NFL MVP award and the Bengals to the AFC title. Schonert throws one more pass the rest of the year, but he becomes a staple of the '80s as a backup.

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