October 30, 1994
The script is too ridiculous, too far-fetched for Hollywood. But not for Bengaldom on a sun-splashed day at Riverfront Stadium an obscure third-year third-string quarterback in his first NFL start comes within five minutes of leading the winless Bengals to a victory over the defending Super Bowl champion Cowboys. Dallas rookie kicker Chris Boniol ends the dream with five minutes left on a 38-yard field goal that snaps a tie and gives the grateful visitors a 23-20 victory.
But the crowd of 57,096 is energized when Jeff Blake gives them their first strands of hope in years bobbing and weaving for 247 yards and staking them to a 14-0 lead one play into the second quarter on two of the prettiest deep balls this side of Boomer Esiason to rookie wide receiver Darnay Scott. Scott, a second-round speedster, breaks loose on a post for the Bengals' longest play of the season in the middle of the first quarter on a 67-yarder that transfixes cornerback Kevin Smith. Blake and Scott do it again one play into the second quarter on a 55-yarder against a flummoxed Dallas secondary that has a new young assistant coach named Mike Zimmer.
The NFL's worst pass offense has the NFL's best pass defense on the ropes with their second most passing yards in 24 games. David Klingler, sidelined by a knee injury, has only bettered 247 yards once and the players sense they have a new man. "He's so confident. He acts like a 10-year veteran out there," says tight end Tony McGee. "You would see him in the huddle and his eyes are all big and that's great. But what gives you confidence is the way he gets the ball in the hands of the receivers. He spreads the ball around. Anybody can talk, he did it."
The post-game locker room, already fired up by Cowboys head coach Barry Switzer comparing the Bengals to Big Eight doormat Iowa State, is buzzing. Under Blake's stewardship the Bengals convert six of 14 third downs after making just a total of seven in the previous four games. They hit 320 yards after hitting a high of only 241 in those four games. The Cowboys' league-leading sackers get just one and that's on a blown handoff as offensive coordinator Bruce Coslet gets Blake out of pocket and uses that pretty deep ball to take down-field shots. "I had two plans," says Coslet, the former Jets head coach who urges the Bengals claim Blake off the waiver wire last month. "One if they blitzed the rookie quarterback and one if they stayed the same." The Cowboys stay the same, but not before they get the Bengals riled up.
This is an excerpt from the new book "This Day in Bengals History" by Geoff Hobson. To purchase the book, visit the Bengals Pro Shop or go to Bengals.com/Book. You can also purchase the book by calling the Pro Shop at (513) 455-8484.