Two-minute thrill

BY GEOFF HOBSON

The numbers defy the film.

Rookie receiver Danny Farmer sits in position coach Steve Mooshagian's office Monday and watches a career born in 2:43.

That's how long it took Farmer to catch four balls for 87 yards and revive the Bengals in Sunday's 17-14 victory over Jacksonville at the gun.

With 3:43 left in the game, the Bengals had completed just 14 passes of 20 yards or more to their wide receivers all season. Farmer, in his first NFL start, had made only one of them, a 21-yarder three weeks ago from quarterback Akili Smith.

Now, Farmer makes grabs of 38, 22, and 19 yards to set up quarterback Scott Mitchell's game-tying 12-yard scramble with 75 seconds left in the game.

Never mind that Farmer thinks his best catch of the day is a little eight-yard toss on the sideline on the next drive.

In the seven games from Sept. 24 to Nov. 12, Smith had just one 20-yarder to a wide receiver before he got benched. Mitchell got three the next week in New England.

But in the four games since, there had been just four 20-plus throws to a receiver when Mitchell lined up the Bengals on a third-and-19 from their own 11 in a game they trailed, 14-7, with what seemed to be 3:43 left in the Dick LeBeau era.

You don't get to be the No. 31 team in NFL pass offense for nothing.

But on film, the plays are there. It's logical, rational with 3:43 left.

"There was nothing different," Farmer says. "I just kept doing what I'd been taught do. Running the routes they tell you to run."

"Jacksonville mixed up basically zone coverages all day," Mooshagian says. "They did the same thing against Cleveland and Arizona the last two weeks. Nothing was different."

Ironically, what may have set it all up was an incompletion on the play before.

On second-and-19, Farmer thinks Mitchell was going to throw him the ball. Farmer, the split end, is wide open over the middle. Mitchell tries to throw to flanker Peter Warrick running an out pattern, but Warrick can't negotiate the sidelines.

Yet the Bengals see the Jaguars zoned off the play and tilt to Warrick, leaving the middle wide open for Farmer.

Remember that for later.

Now, on third-and-19, Mitchell sends his outside receivers, Farmer and Craig Yeast, streaking down field while Warrick bolts out of the slot to look for an opening in the middle.

Jags strong safety Ranya Stewart, wary of Warrick, freezes for just an instant in the middle as Farmer gets a step down the right sideline on cornerback Fernando Bryant.

"If Scott leads him a little here, Danny could run for about 20 more yards," Mooshagian says.

Farmer laughs. "No coach, I would have taken it 80."

As Mitchell lofts the ball for the 6-3 Farmer, Stewart moves from the middle and Bryant leaps with Farmer. Farmer, the ex-UCLA volleyball star, hauls it down between Bryant and Stewart for a 38-yard catch that's the longest by a Bengals wideout since Warrick's 46-yarder Opening Day.

"I knew the ball was underthrown and I wanted to get the ball at the highest point," Farmer says. "As the receiver, you've got the advantage. You know where the ball is. The defensive player can't see it. He's looking for you and running backwards."

Mooshagian clicks to the next play from the Bengals 49: "They were playing relatively soft, but it was almost like they thought we wouldn't go long."

Given the numbers, who would think Cincinnati could go long? Now on the next play. . .

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Continued from Homepage

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Farmer is running a crossing route from the right into the middle of the field, grabs the ball between two Jags and keeps cutting across and rides a block from tight end Marco Battaglia for 22 yards.

"This is a fire zone just like our defense runs," Mooshagian says. "They drop off both ends in pass coverage and Danny does a great job concentrating out of the corner of his eye."

The play works because of Farmer's ability to find the gaping hole between end Tony Brackens and outside linebacker Kevin Hardy while the middle backer blitzes.

As Farmer comes across right to left, Brackens drops on the left side and angling for a hit.

"The guy I had to get around is this guy," says Farmer, pointing to Hardy. "Now the only guy I'm worried about is (Brackens). So I squared up and that allowed Scott not to throw it too far in front of me so (Brackens) could break it up.

"I showed Scott my numbers and he put it right on my right shoulder," Farmer says. "I have to read the two backers, get inside one and stay away from the other one. See how big that hole is?"

With Farmer opening up his body to make the catch, Brackens overruns him as Farmer flashes past him headed the other way.

Then on the next play, from the Jags 29, Mitchell goes for the touchdown when he hangs it up for Warrick in the end zone on a streak pattern.

The pass is broken up, but Mooshagian thinks the play loosens the Jacksonville coverage and, "if Pete had squared up his body like Danny did the play before, he might have had a better shot."

On the next play, fellow rookie Ron Dugans gives Farmer a rest. But after another incompletion, Mitchell needs more third-down magic from Farmer.

Remember that incompletion on second-and-19?

Mitchell sends Warrick on an out route on one side and Yeast is beating his guy on the other side on a streak. But the Jags have the same coverage and Farmer is wide open in the middle. After the catch, he breaks a tackle by Bryant for about three more yards, good for 19 to the Jags 10, and everyone takes a breather at the two-minute warning.

Remember that play.

A false start on Battaglia pushed the Bengals back to the 15, but Warrick gets back the five yards when he runs his option route in the middle of the field. After a sack, you figure Mitchell is looking for Farmer again because it's third-and-12.

Farmer runs the same crossing route from right to left that he broke for 22. Warrick is running the same option route in the middle, and Mitchell sees the right side of the field open up like meadow for the tying 12-yard scramble.

"Look how these guys collapse on me and PDub," Farmer says. "They were playing man-to-man and shading to the inside. This guy dropped, this guy funneled over, and Scott had the presence of mind to take off."

Then came what Farmer thinks is his best catch of the day. It came on the first play after Canute Curtis recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff at the Jags 34.

The Bengals went back to Warrick roaming the middle, and it looked like had the linebacker beat to the inide on a play he had some space. But Mitchell, with pressure coming, apparently doesn't want to risk jamming a ball into the middle.

So there is Farmer running an out route to the right sideline in a one-on-one matchup with safety Mike Logan. Not only did it get eight yards, but when Farmer wrenches the ball out of bounds, the clock stops the ball with a minute left.

"That was my best catch because the guy was all over me," Farmer says. "And I needed to get out-of-bounds, so I just reached out to put the ball on the sideline and I wasn't sure that was enough. But when I asked the ref, he said it was OK."

Farmer knows he was matched up with a safety and knows Mitchell was thinking they might want to run a streak the next time they showed that coverage.

"We wouldn't have switched off on something like that without talking about it first," Farmer says. "Maybe one more play, we would have mentioned it."

The film clicks for a few more seconds, and there is the last play from scrimmage before Neil Rackers kicks the winning field goal, running back Corey Dilllon cuddling the ball on the left hash mark.

"I was just doing my plays," Farmer says. "Doing what they tell me."

The film said it. Even if the numbers didn't.

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