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Tex Maule
September 27, 1971
Paul Brown's Cincinnati Bengals roared off in defense of their division title, beating the Philadelphia Eagles 37-14 as Virgil Carter, the quarterback nobody wanted, threw three touchdown passes
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September 27, 1971

No One's Holding These Tigers

Paul Brown's Cincinnati Bengals roared off in defense of their division title, beating the Philadelphia Eagles 37-14 as Virgil Carter, the quarterback nobody wanted, threw three touchdown passes

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"I just had a good day," Reid said afterward. "I'm not big enough [6'3", 258 pounds] to overpower people, so I depend on my quickness more than anything else. That worked for me during the first half, so I just kept trying to beat them off the line."

A knot of reporters had gathered around him, and Wright, whose locker is next to Reid's, shook his head in simulated disgust. "Get that Reid," he hollered. "Man plays 'one game in four and everybody wants to talk to him."

Everybody wanted to talk to Brown, too. "They made a few mistakes," he said, "but all young clubs make mistakes, and I expect them. We saw a lot of good things out there this afternoon. They showed poise and confidence. Every time it looked like the Eagles would catch up, they took the play away again."

According to Brown, the Bengals changed from tabby cats to tigers in about 11 seconds, or as long as it took Lemar Parrish to run 95 yards against the Buffalo Bills in the eighth game of the 1970 season. Cincinnati had won its opener 31-21 from Oakland with Sam Wyche at quarterback. Then it dropped six straight, including a 38-3 drubbing by Detroit and a 20-0 thumping by Washington. So when the Bengals fell behind the Bills 14-13 it seemed as though they were well on their way to last place. But Parrish returned the following kick-off for a touchdown and Cincinnati, inspired, went on to win 43-14. It also won the next six in a row and the championship of the AFC Central Division.

"Those early losses were mostly close games and we got beat by some good teams," Virgil Carter said the day before the Philadelphia game. Carter had been acquired from Buffalo for a sixth draft choice a month before the 1970 season began after being waived by the Bears, who liked his lip even less than his arm. "Things just weren't going our way," Carter added, "but we weren't getting killed. And we just weren't smart enough to know that you can't win a division title after losing six in a row."

Ernie Wright, who is one of only four players left on the team from the original veteran draft of 1968, is the elder statesman of the squad. "An old-line club would have given up after losing six straight," he said. "These kids played like they didn't know they had lost at all. They just wanted to look good. And they stayed real loose. This is always a real loose club. There never was any pressure put on us the Tuesday after we lost. Paul Brown would go over the game and point out our mistakes as a team, but he never said anything about it after that. Some coaches on a Thursday might still be saying, 'You played a bad game last week.' Not Brown."

The maturation of Carter, who took over at quarterback in the fourth game of the 1970 season, had a good deal to do with the closing surge and the Bengals' 5-0-1 exhibition record this year. "He's a fine young man," Brown said one day last week as he sat in his small office at the Bengal practice field, his feet on his desk. He looked happy—and far less intense than when he coached the Cleveland Browns (1946-62). "Carter is the best quarterback I have ever had at analyzing a game in progress," he went on. "When he comes off the field, he can tell me exactly what went wrong on any play, and when we check the movies later he's right. When he left the Bears the rap on him was that he couldn't throw the long ball but, believe me, he can throw as far and as accurately as any coach could want."

"I gave the Bears a lot of verbal trouble," says Carter, "so when they wanted to get rid of me they used the long-ball thing as an excuse. I can throw long, but why should I? Everybody plays zone defenses now, and if you throw into a deep zone you get intercepted. When that happened with the Bears the quarterback coach, who spent about one day a week with the team, would say, 'Virgil, don't throw interceptions!' Which is a real big help.

"If I throw an interception here, Bill Walsh, our quarterback coach, goes over the play with me in the film and points out exactly why it went wrong. He does the same thing with Ken Anderson. Walsh is as creative a man as I have ever seen and he tells you positive things. For instance, on one of our pass patterns near the goal line he showed me and Ken that the only way to complete the ball was to throw it low and to the outside of the receiver. Ken called the pattern in the exhibition game down in Miami and threw low and outside to Crabtree, and Eric caught the ball for a touchdown. If he had thrown it anywhere else, it would have been intercepted."

Carter and Anderson worked out equally at quarterback during the week leading up to the Philadelphia game. The practice sessions were short—usually an hour and 15 minutes—an old Brown custom, but more lighthearted than those he held at Cleveland. "These are kids and they like to have fun," Brown said. "I don't mind that. I'm back in football to have fun, too."

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