The Nippert Stadium crowd of 25,049 at the University of Cincinnati greets the Bengals' first regular-season home game and first victory in history with the seasoning of a fan base that has had pro football forever. They serenade quarterback John Stofa with boos when he returns to the field from a 0-0 halftime and chant for head coach Paul Brown to go for it on fourth-and-one with 8:50 left in a 10-10 game. The Bengals win a skin-of-the-teeth mark on fullback Tom Smiley's plunge that the refs measure twice to verify the first down before sending Denver coach Lou Saban ballistic. There is chaos, so Brown says, the Bengals " boom it," on the next play and Stofa hits rookie wide receiver Warren McVea for a 54-yard bomb on a go route for a touchdown and they keep going for a 24-10 victory over the incensed Broncos. "I thought we had it on third down," Brown says with a smile, savoring his first win back in pro football after that famous six-year hiatus. "We felt like we had to take the chance. We really thought we could make it. It was a turning point and, of course, the fans wanted it."
Brown is joking. But not Stofa. Not after the veteran Brown dealt for two draft picks and was sidelined in the opener after dealing with injuries all training camp throws the Bengals' first touchdown pass ever to rookie tight Bob Trumpy on a 58-yard pass that puts the Bengals up, 10-0, in the third quarter. Stofa, who says he never thought about getting pulled, airs it out. "Trumpy made a great catch," says Stofa, who reveals McVea is double covered on the play. "I looked at Stofa before the defensive back did," Trumpy says. "I thought I had more time to react." The 6-5 Trumpy easily plucks the ball from the 5-11 Harold Lewis, one of three rookies in the Denver secondary. "That hurt them," says Brown, who points to his own rookies, linebackers Al Beauchamp and Mack McLure who help his defense stuff future Hall-of-Fame running back Floyd Little on 37 yards and hold Denver to just 199 total yards.
When running back Paul Robinson loses a shoe on a late drive, fellow rookie Essex Johnson checks in to run for 47 yards, the last a 35-yard touchdown run with less than three minutes left to seal it on a trap play called by offensive line coach Bill Johnson. Brown says Johnson noticed Denver middle linebacker John Huard "swishing in there," and Johnson and Johnson beat the blitz. "We caught him moving the other way," Stofa says. "Lose your shoe, lose your job," says a smiling Robinson. When a scribe kids Brown about great coaching when puts in Essex Johnson, Brown lifts a Coca-Cola over his head and says, "Here's to one in a row, men."