Dad's idea helps Shula's Bengals boot Bears in OT

November 09, 1992|By Paul Sullivan | Paul Sullivan,Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO, Ill. -- David Shula has learned a thing or two from his old man.

One of those lessons came in quite handy on a cold, Sunday evening at Soldier Field, where Cincinnati's 33-year-old coach experienced what he later would call the "sweetest victory" he has ever been associated with.

After tying the game in the final minute of regulation on Carl Pickens' first touchdown catch of his career, the Bengals drove down to the Chicago Bears' 18 in overtime, and faced a third-and-four situation.

Instead of going for the first down, Shula thought of something that papa Don (Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula) told him many years ago. So kicker Jim Breech was called upon to try a 36-yard field goal.

"He said that one thing his dad taught him was, 'Don't take a lot of time before kicking,' that something could happen," Breech said.

The veteran kicker calmly booted the ball through the uprights for a 31-28 victory, sending Shula jumping into the arms of an assistant coach and breathing new life into a struggling, young Bengals team.

It was Breech's ninth overtime field goal in nine attempts and brought back vivid memories of overtime field goal No. 1 back on Dec. 14, 1980. That one also occurred in Soldier Field, during Breech's infancy as a kicker.

"That was my second game as a Bengal," Breech said. "I'd never been so cold in all my life. Archie Griffin and I stood by the heaters all day. I don't think I'd want to kick here."

Breech's kick capped a comeback that, at one time, would have seemed completely out of the question. In bygone days, trailing the Bears by 14 points in the third quarter on their home field was reason enough to chalk up the game as a loss. Not anymore.

"There was never any feeling on the sideline that the game was over, that there wasn't any hope," Shula said.

The Bengals had confidence in themselves, and perhaps more important, they had confidence that the Bears could find a way to lose.

"We knew the Bears have a propensity to give up points in the second half," quarterback Boomer Esiason. "Especially in the fourth quarter."

The Bears now have been outscored 97-44 in the fourth quarter.

Cincinnati managed to take the game into overtime on a clutch play by Pickens on fourth-and-22, and a smart call by Shula. The Bengals coach wanted to take advantage of Pickens' 5-inch height advantage over Bears cornerback Lemuel Stinson, so he sent Pickens to the left side of the end zone while the three other receivers flooded the right side.

"Carl is a guy who has tremendous vertical jump," Shula said. "We work on that a lot. But not fourth-and-22. We feel if we got him [Pickens] in a one-on-one situation, he can get the football."

Esiason timed his throw so it would go just so high over Pickens' head, and the rookie outleaped Stinson for the game-tying touchdown with 59 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

"That's a big disadvantage for him, four or five inches," Pickens said. "For Boomer to throw it up like that, it definitely boosted my confidence."

Esiason said the play reminded him of a similar play during the second week of the 1987 season. The quarterback was Joe Montana of the 49ers, and Esiason said, "They threw it to a guy named Jerry Rice."

The 49ers' All-Pro receiver made a catch in traffic with no time left to give San Francisco a 27-26 victory.

After suffering through a five-game losing streak that ended last Sunday with a victory over Cleveland, the 4-5 Bengals now have the same record as the Bears.

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