A good friend of mine sent me a text message moments after the Bengals beat the Cleveland Browns in my first regular season game behind the mic.
“Was it as awesome as you thought it would be?” he wrote.
“Better,” I responded.
A great win for the Bengals was accompanied by a fine whine from the Browns after Bruce Gradkowski’s game-winning touchdown pass to A.J. Green with 4:28 remaining.
With Cleveland’s defense just breaking the huddle on 3rd-and-11, the Bengals used a quick-snap to catch the Browns napping.
“Our coaches knew it would work,” Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham told me. “That’s why Coach Gruden called it. We practiced it and he dialed it up at the right time and it was wide-open like he said it would be.”
“Yeah, they quick-snapped us,” said Cleveland head coach Pat Shurmur after the game. “I have to watch the tape, but it’s my understanding that they changed personnel, lined-up and then quick-snapped it. There are rules that go along with that, so we’ll see. My understanding is when the offense changes personnel, the defense is allowed to do so as well and have time to do it. We’ll see if that actually happened.”
Apparently not. On Monday, an NFL source told Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer that the Bengals did not have a substitution violation.
“I have not looked at the game tape to determine exactly what happened in terms of substitutions, but it doesn’t sound like they substituted,” my broadcast partner Dave Lapham explained on Monday. “It’s the umpire’s discretion. If he sees a substitution by the offense, he puts his foot on the football until he feels the defense has had enough time to match that substitution. Once he takes his foot off of the football it’s a live game.
“For the Cleveland Browns, it was just a lack of communication – they didn’t get the play called in the defensive huddle in time. They just kind of looked at the Bengals offense and said, ‘Whoops…this is a do-over.’ It was like a backyard game and they said, ‘We’re not ready. You have to line-up again.’ It ended up costing them the football game.”
It was A.J. Green’s only catch in his NFL debut, and couldn’t have come at a better time.
“It goes down in history,” said Green with a grin. “It feels so good to just give back to the fans because they deserve this win. I’ve told everybody that this team is going to be special. I’m glad we got this win to start the season off right. Now it’s time to get back to work.”
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One of the standouts on defense in the Cleveland win was safety Reggie Nelson who led the Bengals with 9 tackles and had one of their two sacks.
But immediately after the victory, Nelson was upset about letting Mohamed Massaquoi get behind him for a 56-yard reception that led to Cleveland’s second touchdown.
“Bad eyes,” said Nelson. “That’s all I’m going to say about that. We can’t have that on defense.”
“He was happy that we won, but he is his own biggest critic, and he was not happy about his own performance,” said defensive backs coach Kevin Coyle. “When I went over and tried to talk to him about it, I could sense that, and I just wanted him to realize that I was glad that he was disappointed about the plays that he didn’t make, but he also needed to understand that the plays that he did make helped us win the game.”
Cincinnati obtained Nelson in a trade with Jacksonville just before the start of last season. After starting five of the last six games last year, Reggie is the clear-cut starter at free safety this year.
“Reggie is a talented athlete and the more experience that he gets in our system, the better he plays,” said Coyle. “As we’ve gone through preseason, we started to see him get more and more comfortable in his role. When he can just line up out there and see the big picture of things and just react, he is really a fine, fine athlete. He’s got good movement, he’s got toughness, and he’s got great ball skills too – we haven’t seen him pick the ball off yet, but that’s coming.”
Nelson was a first-round draft pick (21st overall) by the Jaguars in 2007 after winning the Jack Tatum Award as the nation’s top defensive back at the University of Florida.
“I believe that Reggie has upper-level athletic ability for the position,” said Coyle. “We just have to get it out of him. There’s a difference between having the ability and taking that ability into the role of the position. I think in the preseason, you started to see that occurring, and we saw a lot of it in Cleveland. It’s the consistency level that he still needs to achieve, but if he does, I really believe that you can compare him with guys that are in the upper-level of safeties in the league.”
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What can I say – I like nicknames.
As the play-by-play announcer for UC, I occasionally called Melvin Levett “The Helicopter”, Darnell Wilks “The Pogo Stick”, Dominick Goodman “The Wizard”, and Tony Pike “The Pistol.”
And yes, even though I am well-aware of the fact that Andy Dalton is not blessed with an Elway-like howitzer, I thought “The Red Rifle” had a nice ring to it.
Your responses have been abundant and amusing.
I would say that based on e-mail and tweets, the feedback has been 60/40 in favor. However, those of you that don’t like it really don’t like it.
The typical favorable response has been, “Hey Dan…good nickname for Dalton.” The typical negative response has been, “THAT’S THE MOST IDIOTIC THING I’VE EVER HEARD AND YOU’RE MAKING ME WANT TO BASH MY RADIO WITH A SLEDGEHAMMER.”
Since Dalton says he likes the nickname and Boomer Esiason used it on the The NFL Today this week, “The Red Rifle” lives.
But I promise to use it sparingly, OK?
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I will soon be blogging on Bengals.com and will have a new e-mail address, but for now, I’d love to hear from you at email@example.com.
If you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard
And I’m on Facebook. Just search for Dan Hoard and look for the photo of me with the handsome lad.