I suspect that I was behind the mic for the 1127th and final punt of Matt Turk’s NFL career.
With 5:23 left and the Jaguars leading 20-16, the 43-year-old Turk shanked a 22-yard punt into a strong wind that – when combined with a 5-yard penalty – gave the Bengals the ball at the Jacksonville 23-yard line. The NFL’s oldest player averaged 28.3 yards on his three punts in the fourth quarter.
“Turk killed them – he absolutely killed them,” said my broadcast partner Dave Lapham. “Shank you very much.”
But the fact that Turk was punting into the wind in the final quarter was the fault of his head coach Jack Del Rio.
“It was their call in the second half,” said head coach Marvin Lewis. “They chose the wind in the third quarter. It was their call and it worked out for us.”
While Del Rio’s choice of direction had dreadful results for the Jaguars, Marvin Lewis made a gutsy call shortly after Turk’s last punt that played a huge part in the win.
The Bengals faced 4th-and-6 at the Jacksonville 19-year line with 3:53 remaining. With two time outs and the two-minute warning remaining, Lewis could have kicked the field goal and tried to get the ball back. But he elected to go for it and Andy Dalton found Jermaine Gresham for a 9-yard gain that kept the drive alive.
“I have to commend whoever made the 4th-and-6 call,” said linebacker Thomas Howard. “It was a great throw by Andy and a better catch by Jermaine. That’s why they pay the person that makes that call the big bucks.”
“We had faith in ourselves and Coach Gruden called a great play,” said right tackle Andre Smith. “We picked up the blitz really well and Andy was able to make a great pass to Gresham.”
It was arguably the most important of the 157 passes that Andy Dalton has thrown – so far – in the the NFL.
“This kid is unflappable – he really is,” said Dave Lapham. “Guts with a capital G is Andy Dalton.”
“It doesn’t surprise us,” said Jermaine Gresham. “We’re with him every day at practice and he shows that all the time. He’s just putting it on film for everyone else in the NFL to see.”
“He commands the huddle, commands our attention, and has that ‘eye of the tiger’ so to speak,” said Andre Smith. “He’s a phenomenal quarterback and I’m really enjoying blocking for him.”
Dalton’s fourth down throw to Gresham gave the Bengals a first down at the 10-yard-line and three plays later, Bernard Scott scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 2-yard run.
A game-ending TD on a fumble recovery by Geno Atkins gave Cincinnati a 30-20 win over Jacksonville, improving the Bengals record to 3-2. The Bengals have come-from-behind in the fourth quarter in all three of their wins.
“Coach always talks about winning in the fourth quarter,” said Thomas Howard. “Games are going to be close in the National Football League because everyone is good. The most disciplined team that makes the most plays in the fourth quarter wins the game.”
“The chemistry on this team is really good,” said right guard Bobby Williams. “It’s one of the best things we have going for us. We know it and we don’t plan on losing it. We’re going to stay humble and hungry. Humble and hungry.”
“This team has been fighting really hard and we still haven’t played our best game yet,” said Andy Dalton. “I’m excited about what’s to come.”
Undoubtedly more excited than Matt Turk.
* * * * *
I hope you’ll join Dave Lapham and me for “Bengals Gameplan” on Wednesday night from 6 to 8 and Artrell Hawkins and me for “Bengals Pep Rally” on Friday afternoon from 3 to 6 live from the Firehouse Grill in Blue Ash. Both shows can be heard on ESPN 1530-AM.
I’d love to hear from you at Dan.Hoard@bengals.nfl.net
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JACKSONVILLE – Now that the Bengals starting quarterback was born the same season Boomer Esiason sat in front of the bus and the club’s Pro Bowl wide receiver was born the year Eddie Brown went to his only Pro Bowl, the Andy Dalton-A.J. Green era looks ready to write the next chapter of Bengaldom.
But an old man beat them to the punch. Cornerback Nate Clements, the oldest man on defense at age 31, born during a season Ken Riley still patrolled the corner, may have had the most to say about the new era last Sunday during halftime of the win over Buffalo.
With the Bengals down, 17-3, and looking more interested in their touches than their team, Clements spoke up. As his teammates gathered in their huddle before going back out on to the field, Clements reminded them in a quick, emotional address that they were still in it and that if they stuck together they could win.
“I was just being myself,” Clements said last week as the Bengals prepared for the Jaguars. “I felt like we needed a jump-start before going out there after what happened early in the game.”
If you’re looking for the biggest difference in head coach Marvin Lewis’ third rebuilding process of his nine seasons, this is it.
In 2003 the first one was built on implementing Lewis’ organization and philosophy for a locker room that had none. Before the start of the 2008 and then hurried along by an unbelievable run of injuries, the second reboot featured an overhauling of a veteran roster that couldn’t get over the 8-8, 7-9 hump. It was turned over to guys like Dhani Jones and Chris Crocker, journeymen veterans thankful for one last shot, and Andrew Whitworth and Domata Peko, young players on the rise that saw where the talented teams failed.
Now you have this one in 2011, marked by a massive personnel change on offense led by Dalton and Green, but along with it the installation of a group of veterans such as Whitworth, Peko, Leon Hall and Bobbie Williams that saw how not to do it in the locker room, and the infusion of professional, solid veterans like Clements, Thomas Howard, Manny Lawson and Kelly Jennings have brought a fresh perspective.
Throw in the departures of long-time locker-room personalities, whether they were positive or negative, and it allowed the new breed to flex its muscles.
It helped that the draft classes of 2009-11 yielded a vein of blue-collar players that have blue chip talent. Ask around the locker room, and the long-timers keep talking about how the young guys always seem to be talking about football and not the complementary items.
The result seems to be, as evidenced by Clements’ Buffalo Address, that the players have taken more ownership than at any point in Lewis’ run. No more passive aggressive. If they don’t like it, they’ll tell their teammates.
“I think there’s more ownership, but I don’t think it’s anything over the top,” Hall said. “There aren’t a whole lot of players that are yelling and screaming. I think you definitely get a sense of ownership.”
Clements says he just did what came natural, which may be the best way to describe how the altered chemistry is bubbling. He didn’t have any index cards.
“I’m pretty sure I’ve done it before, but I can’t remember one particular moment,” Clements said. “I didn’t plan it or rehearse it. Nobody was bickering. Nobody had their heads down. It was just something I thought we needed at the time. It wasn’t to chew anybody out. It was motivation. If you keep playing, the score is going to take care of itself.”
Clements said he had no worries that anyone would object to him speaking up or taking it the wrong way. Indeed, the reaction has been overwhelming positive.
“We all understand each other in here,” Clements said.
That could end up being the ’11 mantra. Right next to Lewis’ “Find A Way” T-shirts.
Tags: Bengals locker room, Leon Hall, Nate Clements
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