Homer J.’s Second Thoughts: Bengals Desecrate Towel, Shoot Selves in Head
by Homer J.
Some truths are eternal.
You don’t tug on superman’s cape
You don’t spit into the wind
You don’t pull the mask off that old lone ranger
And you don’t mess around with the Terrible Towel.
Jeremy Hill didn’t get the memo, and, like so many other before him, he and his confederates paid the price.
The Bengals got off to a fast start, the Steelers lost their best remaining lineman on the third play from scrimmage, and, for the first twenty minutes, the contest was turning into something of a butt whipping. Andy Dalton’s offense marched smartly down the field the first three times they had the ball. They settled for a field goal the first time, scored a TD the second time, and then, with 9:02 remaining in the second quarter came the play that changed everything.
Jeremy Hill sliced up the middle for four yards and a touchdown, ran to the back of the end zone, picked up a Terrible Towel off the ground, tried twice to rip it, then threw it to the ground in total disrespect.
We’ve all seen this movie before. Homer sat watching the beat-down, and didn’t take a single note on his computer until Hill’s touchdown. The note said simply, “with 9:02 remaining in the second quarter, Hill desecrates the towel.”
“I hate to say the Towel is cursed when you disrespect it, but you can’t do that,” Steelers guard Ramon Foster said. “That’s too early in the game to be doing that type of stuff.”
T.J. Houshmanzadeh used a Towel to shine his shoes when the Bengals defeated the Steelers in their final regular season match-up in 2005. The Steelers went on to whip the Bengals, 31-17 in the playoffs, and then went on to win the Lombardi Trophy. Cincy didn’t even make the playoffs until the end of the 2009 season, after Houshmanzadeh was long gone from Cincy.
In 2008, Baltimore wide receiver Derrick Mason stomped on a Towel just before kickoff of the first Steeler-Raven matchup. The Ravens went on to lose that game. They went on to lose the rematch. And they went on to lose to the Steelers in the AFC Championship.
Also in 2008, Keith Bullock and the corpulent LenWhale White of the Tennessee Titans stomped a Towel en route to a 31-14 stomping of the Steelers. At that point, the Titans were top seed in the playoffs, but the Towel took its revenge. The Titans inexplicably proceeded to lose eight games in the row, including the first round of the AFC playoffs, and the next year’s season opener against Pittsburgh.
After the eight consecutive loss, a 59-0 humiliation at the hands of the Patriots, the Titans sued for peace. They sent an autographed Terrible Towel to the Allegheny Valley School as an apology and a peace offering. They won their next game, of course. The Towel, though proud and vengeful, is also merciful.
Hill’s biggest mistake was, as Ramon Foster pointed out, committing his sacrilege so early in the game. The Bengals had a 17-3 lead, but there was still 9:02 to go in the second quarter.
The Steelers answered with a drive, Ben hitting AB for an apparent TD to cut the lead to one touchdown, but a chop block call against Bell negated the score, and Boswell had to settle for a field goal to cut the lead to 17-6.
The Bengals drove down the field again, and a Steeler goal line stand forced them to settle for a field goal, making it 20-6. At that point, the Cincy offense decided to take the rest of the day off, with zero points and 60 total years the rest of the way.
The Steelers cut the lead to 20-9 at halftime, thanks to Bossman’s field goal with two second left in the half.
It was a difficult first half, with Cincy scoring the first four times they got their hands on the ball, and the Steelers not crossing the goal line at all. Stephon Tuitt was out for the game with a knee injury, the D wasn’t stopping anything – except maybe near the goal line, the Towel had been disrespected and yet the Steelers were still in it.
The Steelers took the second half kickoff and moved once again into Boswell’s range, with the field goal cutting the lead to 20-12.
At that point, the Steeler D began to assert itself, Ryan Shazier sacked Dalton, Jeremy Hill hobbled off the field, and the Bengals were finally forced to punt.
Ben continued to get excellent protection on the next possession, hitting Eli Rogers for a big gain to keep the drive alive. A long pass to Sammie Coates fell incomplete in the end zone, but the ref missed a face mask penalty right in front of him. Another long Boswell field goal, and it was 20-15.
Then it was the D’s turn to come up with a big play. Lawrence Timmons picked off a Dalton pass near midfield and returned it to the Cincy 34 with :01 left in the third quarter. Ben took the Steelers deep into the red zone, but they were stopped again and had to settle again for another field goal. 20-18.
The Bengals’ tepid answer was another three-and-out, thanks to a big run stuff by Shazier and a critical pass defended by Cockrell. And another punt. To the Steeler 31.
At this point, the Bengals led the Steelers on a 69-yard drive to their only TD of the afternoon. The Bengals were offsides on a 3rd and 1. They had a holding penalty on the next play. And another holding penalty on the play after that. And then a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, taking the ball to the Cincy 18. Four consecutive plays, four Cincy penalties, all for first downs, moving the ball into the red zone. Two plays later, Ben fired a laser shot to Eli Rogers at the goal line. Rogers cradled the ball and fought his way into the end zone, for a 24-20 lead. For those who had been awaiting Cincy’s self-destruction, Christmas had come a week early.
The two point conversion attempt failed, but, with a four point lead and time running down, all the Steelers’ improved defense had to do was keep the Bungles out of the end zone and then hold on to the ball.
They did better than that.
Cincy downed the kickoff for a touchback, and managed a single first down to their own 38. Then, on second down, villain/hero Hill was nailed for a four yard loss, and then Artie Burns broke up a pass on 3rd and 14, forcing them to punt.
Huber punted deep, with AB taking the kick inside the Steelers’ ten yard line, returning it out to the 16. From then on, the Steelers ran and passed their way down the field, running out the clock. In a drive that showed all that is good in life, they moved the ball 80 yards, eating up all remaining time, forcing Cincy to use all of their time outs, and concluding with three plays in victory formation.
The big play on the final drive was a 29-yard pass to Ladarius Green, who took a hellacious hit on the play but held on to the ball. There was also a nine yard pass to Bell, an eight yard pass to Rogers, and Bell ran for three first downs on short yardage situations. Rosie Nix, who was inexplicably seldom seen during much of the game, was finally in there leading the blocking. With Nix leading the way, the Bungles knew what was coming, but there was nothing they could do to stop it. Bell’s final first down came at the two minute warning, inside the Cincy 20, and the Bengals had only one time out left.
With 1:50 or so remaining came the play that’s a litmus test for the Tomlin haters.
The Steelers had run one play, for short yardage, and Cincy had called their final time out. Everyone in the park did the math and saw that the Steelers could run two more plays, stay in bounds, and yet there would be somewhere between twenty and thirty seconds left. So, on second and long, Ben faked the run and threw long to AB along with right sideline. Brown was mugged by Kirkpatrick, who spent most of the afternoon celebrating Flag Day. This one, for pass interference, made it first and goal at the four, brought about victory formation, and you could hear the lamentations of their Burfict. And Kirkpatrick.
Funny how the yinzers who are caterwauling over Tomlin’s call to go for two on the Steelers’ only touchdown are strangely silent on the pass to Brown. Had it been incomplete, it would have given Cincy forty more seconds. But the gamble worked. Ergo, no caterwauling, no weeping, no wailing, no gnashing of teeth.
Actually, it’s time to give the Steeler coaching staff props for the job they did. On the road, behind by two TD’s, missing their two best defensive ends, and down to three healthy defensive linemen, they stopped Cincinnati cold in the second half. Ricardo Matthews, injured in the first half, cam back and played hurt in the second, to allow some kind of rotation among defensive linemen.
They authored two heroic goal line stands, once again this week stoutly defending every blade of grass inside the ten yard line. These kids are tough, especially with their backs against the wall.
It was a breakout game for Eli Rogers. And Cobi Hamilton came up with some big plays. Rogers became the number two receiver we’ve been looking for, although the game stats seemed to indicate he might have even been Ben’s number one choice this week.
Chris Boswell was perfect in six field goal attempts, five of them of 40 yards or more, three of them from 49. This was in cold and windy weather. And he tripped up a Cincy kickoff returner on what would have been a touchdown. Yeah, he gets the game ball.
As for the yinzer complaints du jour, I’m not worried about this week’s holding call against DeCastro. The rusher had a clear shot at Ben, and DD took the hold to save his life. Ben is still alive, the Steelers won. And, besides, DD went low on Burfict and rang the SOB’s bell on another play, sending Burfict to the sidelines.
The kickoff return coverage was problematic, especially when you consider that Erickson is one of the top returners in the league. The kid averaged 30-plus, and broke one for 72. But the Steelers have been missing two of their top special teams guys, and others have been playing hurt. This was a case where Cincy’s strength overpowered a Steeler weakness. That’s not an excuse, but it’s not the end of the world.
Homer, however, joins the chorus of those who spent the first three quarters of the game asking, “where’s Rosie?” One can only expect that Marvin Lewis was preparing to face a two-back offense and Tomlin and Haley crossed him up with a one back offense and lots of passes to guys not named Antonio Brown.
So, yeah, Rogers had a huge game, and Green had some key receptions, and so did Hamilton. And Nix did come in, all fresh and nasty, to lead the way for Bell in the fourth quarter. Maybe that was the plan. But we are Steeler Nation, and we have this thing about fullbacks. We love it when everything’s comin’ up Rosie, and we would have been happier to see more of him.
The big concern now is injuries. We hold our breath, hoping to see Tuitt on the field on Christmas day along with Ladarius Green. If those two guys are okay, and if there are no other serious injuries to report, then we’ll all have a Merry Christmas.
If not, you know the drill. Next man up.
Meanwhile, a big cup of holiday cheer goes out to Jeremy Hill. The Terrible Towel is always poised to strike, and it was Hill who provoked the iconic textile. The game was decided with 9:02 remaining in the second quarter. Yoi and double yoi!
You can always count on the Cincy Bungles to self-destruct, often by shooting themselves in the head.
Homer and St. Myron wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy Hanukkah. They fall on the same day this year, which is also the day the Steelers will clinch the division with a win against the Ratbirds. Pass the turkey, please. And razzleberry dressing.
God bless us all, every one.