ATLANTA - The best start in Bengals history is nearly derailed today by the lowly Falcons even though they knock out quarterback Steve Bartkowski on his only pass of the day that just so happens to be a touchdown and intercept the back-up quarterbacks five times. When Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson chooses to run in a bootleg from three yards out with 2:04 left in the game, they survive, 21-14, to move to 6-0. Veteran linebacker Al Beauchamp makes it all possible when he forces a fumble by Falcons running back Woody Thompson as the clock ticks under four minutes and defensive tackle Ron Carpenter falls on it at the Atlanta 21.
Moments later Anderson fakes a handoff to Stan Fritts as he and fellow running back Boobie Clark both leap over the offensive line to set Anderson free around right end. "They know they usually give me the ball on the goal line," Clark says. "It was a false key. Two linebackers hit me. Somebody hit Stan. Ken just waltzed in." Anderson can run or throw it, but when he sees what his road roommate is doing, he follows right guard Dave Lapham. "It's a boot-leg play with a run-pass option. I could have thrown it to (tight end) Bob Trumpy," Anderson says. "He was open. Or I think he was open. But I decided to run it. Dave Lapham threw a big block. I never thought about throwing, it really."
Bartkowski wishes he never thinks about throwing a 17-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jim Mitchell that gives Atlanta a 7-0 lead on his first throw of the day because after Bengals defensive tackle Bill Kollar drills him he runs off the field holding his arm. After the game Bartkowski says it's a clean hit all the way. "There's nothing I could do. Kollar says. "I was just a split-second from hitting him when he unloaded the ball." Bengals cornerback Ken Riley wastes no time victimizing Pat Sullivan, the former Heisman Trophy winner now backing up. Riley shows his savvy cool when cuts underneath wide receiver Alfred Jenkins and takes a 30-yard interception return all the way to tie it at 7. "I read it all the way," Riley says. "Jenkins split out kind of wide. I thought he'd give me an inside move. I broke when he broke and got it clean."
Head coach Paul Brown praises the 30-yard touchdown pass from Anderson that gives them a 14-7 lead when wide receiver Charlie Joiner makes a tumbling catch and somersaults into the end zone on one of about a dozen audibles Brown says Anderson calls during the day. "It was a hook pattern. Charlie saw the blitz and went to the post," Anderson says. Joiner: "Ken put it right there. It was either a perfect pass or an interception." But you get the idea the Bengals are starting to think this season can be truly something because they aren't impressed with the win. "There's no bubbling in that locker room," Brown says. "Hand it to the Atlantans. They were more ready than we were … It wasn't an inspired day. I call it an officials' day and that's not meant as a criticism. It's just they were so much a part of the game. We had a score called back because of a penalty and we were hurt by penalties. It was that way all day."