Sam Wyche claims his Cincinnati Bengals have figured out how to stop the run and shoot offense. No one disputed the Cincinnati coach Sunday.
Holding Houston's version of the run and shoot to one first down the first half, the Bengals routed the Oilers 41-14 in a first round playoff game.Boomer Esiason threw for two touchdowns and ran for another to help the AFC Central division champion Bengals, 10-7, advance. They play the Raiders at Los Angeles Sunday in the conference semifinals.
The Oilers, 9-8, were so pathetic at the start Sunday they went without a first down until the final 30 seconds of the first half. The Bengals led 20-0 by then, rolling up 222 yards and 15 first downs in the half. The Oilers managed 36 yards in the first half, with one rushing yard. The Bengals held the ball for 25 of the first 30 minutes.
The run and shoot offense is a passing-oriented scheme in which four wide receivers quickly sprint downfield and read the defense before deciding their routes.
"We've seen enough of Houston's run and shoot that we're starting to read their receivers just like they're reading us," Wyche said. "We think we've found some answers to controlling it. We think we know what's coming at us.
"Our defensive coaches came up with a good game plan for the run and shoot today. I think that next season, other teams are going to be studying films of this game to find out how we stopped the run and shoot. There's going to be a lot of teams interested in getting films of this game."
The Bengals shut down an offense that qualified for the playoffs a week ago by shredding Pittsburgh's top-rated NFL defense in a 34-14 rout.
"Pittsburgh played a lot of zone defense, but we played a lot of man to man," said Bengals rookie linebacker James Francis, who recovered a fumble to set up a TD. "We made some plays instead of sitting back on our heels. We played tight and gave (Cody) Carlson a lot of different looks."
Carlson, filling in for injured Warren Moon for the second straight week, completed 16 of 33 for 165 yards. Most of his completions and yardage came after Cincinnati took a commanding second-half lead.
"We knew from watching the Pittsburgh game films that if we put pressure on Cody, he was going to have a long day," said safety David Fulcher, who set up a TD with a 43-yard interception return.
Carlson accepted the blame for Houston's inept offense.
"It was a long day and a pretty bad one," he said. "We just played lousy. I thought we were prepared for the Bengals defense, but I didn't throw well. It's my fault I didn't get us going. We kept our defense on the field much too long."
"We were flat from beginning to end," Oilers wide receiver Ernest Givins added. "The Bengals know us well. They won today with technique. They alternated well between man to man coverage and the zone."
Esiason enjoyed the best playoff game of his career. He completed 14 of 20 passes for 150 yards, including TD passes of 9 yards to Eric Kattus and 2 yards to Harold Green. The scrambling quarterback also ran five times for 57 yards, including a 10-yard score.
The Bengals, who had beaten Houston 40-20 just two weeks ago, also scored rushing TDs of 3 yards by Eric Ball and 1 yard by Ickey Woods. Jim Breech kicked field goals of 27 and 30 yards.
Carlson managed scoring passes of 16 and 5 yards to Ernest Givens after the Oilers fell hopelessly behind.
Cincinnati's James Brooks, who rushed a club-record 201 yards two weeks ago against the Oilers, gained 17 yards in six carries Sunday before suffering a dislocated thumb late in the first quarter. Brooks was taken to Christ Hospital for treatment after a bone in his left thumb pierced the skin.
"Brooks is questionable for next week, at best," Wyche said.
Bengals' All-Pro tackle Anthony Munoz aggravated a bad left shoulder, but should face the Raiders. Fellow offensive lineman Bruce Reimers, however, is doubtful because of a severely sprained ankle.
Esiason said he realizes the Bengals are in for a tougher time next week, especially if Brooks is out. The Raiders trounced Cincinnati 24-7 Dec. 16 in Los Angeles.
"We played in 'The Jungle (Riverfront Stadium)' today and the fans were great," Esiason said. "Now we have to take it on the road. We didn't play very well the last time against the Raiders, they gave us a pretty good beating.
"The weather won't be on our side next time."
The steady rain and wet field Sunday hindered Houston's run and shoot offense, which helped the Oilers defeat Cincinnati 48-7 Oct. 14 at the Astrodome.
The Bengals rolled to a 20-0 halftime lead Sunday, and stretched their lead to 34-0 before Houston managed its second first down down of the game.
"We had one of those special days that you only have now and then," Wyche said. "They don't happen very often, but I had been so sure before this game that we were going to win that it was scary."
"When the Bengals get on you, they don't let up," Houston Coach Jack Pardee said. "We simply didn't match up with them. We made no plays. We did not run. We did not plass."