Posted: 2:30 a.m.
CLEVELAND - Bengals long snapper Brad St. Louis had to wait 143 games and a quarter to snap the first overtime field goal of his career Sunday and it was perfect as Shayne Graham converted a 31-yarder on virtually the last possible play of overtime to give the Bengals a 23-20 win over the Browns.
The clock read 0:04 when the kick went through, barely avoiding Cincinnati's second tie in two years.
But the curious case of St. Louis continues. Two more errant snaps appeared to result in a blocked field goal and, even more excruciating, a blocked extra point that would have given the Bengals a 21-20 win with 1:55 left in regulation. The missed kicks came after previous high snaps cost the Bengals a field goal against Denver and an extra point against Pittsburgh.
?Brad has been my guy for seven years,? Graham said. ?No matter what, the next kick is the only one that matters. I have to expect that every snap is going to be perfect, and everything about the (last) one seemed perfect to me.?
That wasn?t the only special teams meltdown for the Bengals on Sunday. After they held foes to 17 punt return yards in the first three games, the Browns? Josh Cribbs ripped then for 120 yards on six attempts, including bolts of 39 that set up a touchdown and 50 that set up a field goal to give the Browns a 20-14 lead with 6:34 left in the game.
?Those are on me,? said Huber, the rookie who punted nine times and put two inside the 20 in OT. ?I put them right down the middle of the field and I didn?t give my coverage team enough time to get down there. (In the OT) we were able to get it to the sidelines and the guys did a good job squeezing him.?
But for kicker, punter-holder, and long snapper, the OT was one of redemption.
On his first OT punt, Huber dropped it out of bounds at the 17. On the next one it rolled to the 16. Then from his own 31 with 6:30 left he sent one 49 yards, but linebacker Brandon Johnson got down in time to hold Cribbs to an 11-yard gain on the sideline.
Huber also had an exciting day all the way around as Graham?s holder. The last one, he admitted, was tough.
?I knew Brad was going to give me a good snap; he?s been doing it for so long,? Huber said. ?He?s done it this year. If he has a bad snap, he comes back with a perfect one. ... It was tough trying to keep my head down, but I looked the ball in.?
The less-than perfect snaps were compounded by the presence of massive Browns nose tackle Shaun Rogers with his 12 career blocks. Make that 14.
?It probably didn?t help,? said St. Louis of the snaps.
The first one was high. The second one was a bit more than outside that Huber had to stretch back for and bring it back.
Asked what Rogers was doing, St. Louis asked wryly, ?Other than being big in there??
The Bengals have some big guys up there protecting on field goals and extra points, like right guard Bobbie Williams, defensive tackle Domata Peko, and left tackle Andrew Whitworth. But Rogers was mountainous.
?I?ve got some big guards surrounding me,? St. Louis said. ?It?s like a big chain and everybody links together.?
St. Louis said there wasn?t much difference on the last one. ?Everybody did the same technique,? he said. ?I just focused on Kevin?s hand.?
St. Louis said after the extra point got blocked in regulation, the trio talked about how it would come down to them again.
?That?s what we were expecting,? he said.
Graham had been expecting to have an OT field goal to his credit by now. Bengals all-time scorer Jim Breech was perfect in OT with an NFL-record nine in 13 seasons. Doug Pelfrey had two in seven seasons. This would have been Graham?s second, but last year he missed a 47-yarder wide right against the Eagles with eight seconds left in the 13-13 tie.
Graham admitted, ?It felt good walking off this time. ... When I didn?t pick up my head and didn?t hear anything, that tells me their fans weren?t cheering. It?s a good feeling.?
Graham didn?t play the wind since a stiff breeze (about 15 to 20 miles per hour) was hitting him in the face straight away, so he concentrated on hitting it straight and clean.
?It went a little right of center but you?ve got 18 feet of goal post and you?ve got to put it somewhere in between,? he said.
Graham has been the kicker for all but two of head coach Marvin Lewis? regular-season games, and he can feel the different vibe everyone is talking about.
?We just have an attitude about us that I think we all feel a lot of positivity around the team,? he said. ?Every game this year has been down to the wire. I don?t think you?d ask for it any other way, as long as you get that win, we?ll take it any way we can get it.?
The 6-1, 215-pound Cribbs also pounded the Bengals for 103 yards on three kick returns and lends such a physical presence to his unit that both Bengals kickers were left bruised and battered. The one thing they know about Cribbs is just how big he plays in a small man?s position.
?He?s a big man; big," said Huber after seeing Cribbs in person.
Graham, who has now beaten the Browns at the regulation gun (2005) and just in front of the OT blast, isn?t too surprised to be feeling sore.
?When do we not have a physical game? When you look at our division, we always have physical games,? Graham said. ?It?s not every game where you can say your kicker and your punter get trucked on a return. We both walked away with bumps and bruises. The whole team fought, kicked and scratched for everything they got today. It makes the win that much better. We usually do four jumping jacks before each game. We say four jumps for four quarters. This week for some reason we did five, we said five jumps for four quarters. Well I guess it was five jacks for five quarters.?