Dec. 23, 1990.
That's how long it has been since the Bengals came up with a huge goal-line stand like the one that stoned the Ravens yesterday in the final minute to preserve Cincinnati's 21-14 victory.
"It's the biggest one since my rookie year when we played the Browns here," said linebacker James Francis of the 1990 finale in which the Bengals beat Cleveland by the same score to make the playoffs. "They were on the 1 at the end of the half and we stopped them."
That's where the Ravens had the ball yesterday on fourth down with 30 seconds left on a blustery day of snow flurries at Cinergy Field, when quarterback Vinny Testaverde executed a play-action fake.
The Bengals were surprised all day that the Ravens didn't use running back Bam Morris more against the wind and Cincinnati's nickel defense, designed to counter the Ravens' passing formations. But they knew Testaverde was going to pass on fourth down and disregarded the run fake.
"They came out in the red set, with the split back look, so we knew they were going to pass it," Francis said. "They tried to run it twice before so we figured they would throw it."
Second-year backup safety Sam Shade, who plays on goal-line defense, did the rest. With strong safety Bracey Walker blitzing from the right side, Testaverde had to hurry his throw to fullback Carwell Gardner in the left flat, where Shade held him for no gain.
The safeties are supposed to cover the backs out of the backfield so when Walker's man went into the line on a fake trap play, he was able to pursue Testaverde.
"We were telling each other it was gut-check time, [defensive end] Artie Smith was yelling, 'gut check,' " said defensive lineman Ramondo Stallings. "We were telling each other to make a play if we wanted to win and Sam Shade made the play."
Shade and his teammates had about 10 minutes to ponder what the Ravens might do on fourth down after Ravens guard Herman Arvie got carried off the field on a board. The bad memories of Nov. 3 in Baltimore filtered back when Bengals guard Scott Brumfield left in a similar fashion with temporary paralysis after a spinal cord injury.
"We saw it happen to Brumfield and we were hoping he was going to be OK," Shade said. "We were trying to stay loose and warm."
Stallings and his friends up front set up Shades' play when they stuffed Morris up the middle for no gain on second and third downs. The heart of the line, Stallings, John Copeland and Dan Wilkinson, got enough penetration to allow linebackers Tom Tumulty and McDonald to finish off the 250-pound Morris.
"They moved the ball on us, but when you get down there, you are limited," Copeland said. "Low man wins. We were low man."
With Tumulty, a sixth-round draft pick out of Pittsburgh, making his first NFL start because of middle linebacker Steve Tovar's season-ending knee injury, the Bengals expected to get a huge diet of Morris behind a Ravens offensive line averaging 309 pounds.
Plus, with defensive tackle Tim Johnson banged up and the Ravens' passing sets forcing the Bengals into a nickel package 90 percent of the time, Cincinnati had to move the 280-pound Stallings from right end to right tackle and replace him with 270-pound rookie Jevon Langford.
"We weren't in the greatest run defense; running against the nickel probably would have been a lot better," Stallings said. "But they throw the ball well."
The Ravens couldn't play keep away because Cincinnati had the ball for nearly 36 minutes.
Pub Date: 12/09/96