Is the Bengals special teams coach Darrin Simmons or David Copperfield?
In each of their last two games, the Bengals have tried some trickery on special teams: A fake field goal that didn’t work in Washington, and a fake punt that resulted in a momentum-changing 48-yard run in Jacksonville.
“We’ve had opportunities to make plays two weeks in a row now, and we look at those things every week,” said Simmons. “If we execute the play in Washington and block like we’re supposed to block, it’s a touchdown. It should be an easy one if we get the lines of communication squared away. We’ll continue to do it. It does keep the other teams on their heels a little bit, and can provide a spark for our team as well. It’s a high risk/high reward thing, and fortunately for us, this time it worked.”
But it wasn’t a matter of good fortune.
Three minutes into the second quarter, the Bengals punted on 4th-and-1 from their own 29 and saw that Jacksonville rushed hard from Cincinnati’s right side – potentially allowing the Bengals to run a fake in that direction. So roughly three minutes later on 4th-and-1 from their own 34, the Bengals had Clark Harris snap the ball to the punt protector Cedric Peerman and watched him sprint to the Jacksonville 18 (watch the play here). Five plays later, the Bengals scored their first touchdown and took the lead for good.
“The snap was perfect and Cedric was around the corner before the guy even knew that he had the ball,” said Simmons. “It was executed perfectly by Clark and Cedric.”
“Once I heard the call, I looked up and saw we had the exact look that we needed,” said punter Kevin Huber. “I knew it was there if we were able to protect it right. It worked out and I got to run in the other direction.”
“That was huge,” said Brian Leonard. “It puts the morale of the other team down and it gets ours up when you make a play like that in special teams.”
On Monday, I asked Marvin Lewis if the fakes were simply a matter of getting favorable looks from the opponent or if the Bengals were looking to be more aggressive in special teams.
“We have not done anything different in 10 seasons now,” said Coach Lewis.
Admittedly, two fakes in two weeks do not indicate a trend, but the willingness to take risks is welcomed in the Bengals locker room.
“One thing that you notice every year in the NFL about the better teams is that when they see an opportunity they take it,” said kicker Mike Nugent. “That’s one thing that I’ve always noticed about very good teams – it doesn’t necessarily have to be a fake or anything like that, but when they get a tiny little opportunity they pounce on it. Hopefully we’ll keep doing that as well.”
Between trick plays on special teams and Mohamed Sanu’s game-opening TD pass out of the “Wildcat” formation, the Bengals are creating uncertainty for the opposition. As a result, future opponents are going to have to expect the unexpected while the Bengals look forward to seeing what the coaching staff conjures up next.
“If you’re on the sideline and you know what’s happening, it’s pretty exciting to watch,” said Nugent.
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