Bengals remain grounded to plan Even with 21-3 deficit at half, Cincinnati begins third quarter with a rush

November 04, 1996|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,SUN STAFF

There was no reason for the Cincinnati Bengals to believe they could run on the Ravens in the second half. No reason to feel the best way to begin taking chunks out of an 18-point deficit was by keeping the ball on the ground.

But that's precisely what they did yesterday. The heck with conventional thinking.

Garrison Hearst was gaining 1.8 yards per carry at halftime. By game's end, he was being credited for helping carry the Bengals to an improbable 24-21 victory over the Ravens before a stunned crowd at Memorial Stadium.

Hearst, who was signed off waivers before the season, gained 62 of his 80 yards in the second half. In the third quarter alone, he ran eight times for 52 yards, or 6.5 yards per attempt. And he gave the Ravens more to worry about than quarterback Jeff Blake and his big-play receivers.

"We couldn't have them pinning their ears back, coming after Jeff," Hearst said. "We knew we had to get some things started upfield so we could get some field position, try to get those guys where they couldn't just jump into Jeff's face. We had to come out and establish the ground game.

"I was just glad I got the chance to run the ball."

Most Ravens fans will remember this game for Vinny Testaverde's four interceptions, but there was more to it than that. There were the 168 rushing yards from Cincinnati -- including 119 in the second half -- a surprising output from a much-maligned backfield.

"That's the thing we knew we could do against these guys," said 12th-year offensive tackle Joe Walter. "They're banged up, they don't have all their guys, they're not very healthy. And we knew we had to run the ball. They were backing everybody off deep for receivers, so we just had to run the ball at them."

Running back Eric Bieniemy said, "In the first half, they mixed it up a little bit and confused us. Then, we finally got it together in the second half. We started firing off the ball. We wanted to win somehow, someway. We wanted to take some personal pride in our job."

Twenty-three of the Bengals' 39 rushing attempts came after halftime. "Why would you panic? That's the worst thing you could do -- start throwing every time," said coach Bruce Coslet.

"They were laying back and that's what we've been talking about all year. If they're going to lay back, we have to be able to run the ball or just dump it to the backs. You've got to take what they give you."

On the Bengals' first possession of the second half, Hearst ran up the middle for 7 yards, then off left guard for 9. Blake scrambled for 17, then let Hearst carry three straight times for 16. After two completions, Bieniemy gained 5 yards, putting the ball on the 1, and Ki-Jana Carter scored on a pitch left.

"We knew coming in they were going to give us some problems defensively because we really couldn't handle what they were going to play," Coslet said. "They fooled us a couple times in the first half by not showing some things. We went to more basic stuff, but then they went back to what we had planned for, so we started using the whole game plan about midway through the third quarter, and it was executed well."

Coslet had some pointed words for his team at halftime. "I'm not out to hurt anybody's feelings, but everybody's accountable," he said.

Everybody became inspired.

"We came out pretty flat in the first half and just weren't getting things done offensively," Walter said. "We came in at halftime and basically got reamed out by Bruce. He challenged our manhood a little bit. He said, 'You're playing like a bunch of boys this first half,' and that was the truth. Everybody rose to the occasion."

Said center Darrick Brilz: "He kind of jumped on us. We didn't really change anything as far as the offense goes. We just went out in the second half and got it done."

Pub Date: 11/04/96

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