Paul Brown Stadium is arguably the “house that Jeff Blake built”

The year was 1994. The Cincinnati Bengals were 0-7. This after winning just 11 games in total from 1991 to 1993, three years after their last playoff appearance.

The Bengals were now at home against defending two-time Super Bowl champions the Dallas Cowboys without starting quarterback David Klinger. The sixth overall pick in the 1992 draft was ruled out with a knee injury, which meant Cincinnati would have to roll with their third quarterback, an undersized sixth-round pick by the New York Jets than Cincinnati. recovered on waivers.

And then, just when it seemed like all hope was lost, the franchise was given new life. Jeff Blake entered the field as a 23-year-old well aware of his abilities. “He’s so confident. He’s acting like a 10-year veteran there, ”tight end Tony McGee said after the game.

And there were good reasons why Blake believed in himself when no one else believed him. Nobody, that is, except for offensive coordinator Bruce Coslett, who picked Blake when he was head coach of the Jets. After joining the Bengals, Coslett took the young quarterback with him, saving Blake from having to find a new career.

With just over nine minutes to go in the first quarter of a scoreless game, Blake backed off, saw a pocket collapse and calmly returned a football about 50 yards from rookie wide receiver Darnay Scott, who smashed a tackle attempt from Dallas cornerback Kevin Smith and took it home for a 67-yard touchdown.

The Cowboys and the local public were stunned. What was happening? How did the Bengals, who couldn’t even get 200 yards most weeks, score in seconds? Who was this man ? Was Cincinnati really ahead 7-0 over the defending champions?

Then things returned to normal. Blake threw four misfires and only made one pass for three yards to end the quarter as Cincinnati was forced to kick twice. He was sacked in the last game of the quarter, establishing 3rd and 14th.

The fun seemed over … until Blake threw another beauty at Scott in the very first play of the second quarter. He traveled about 40 yards in the air even though the quarterback was hit by defensive tackle Leon Lett as he released the ball.

Just like that, Scott had a 55-yard touchdown and the Bengals were leading 14-0. Of course, they would lose the game, but there was finally reason to believe. Click here to see the highlights of this match.

It was after this match that Blakemania was born. The young signalman would throw 64 more touchdowns, many of them very long, over the next two and a half seasons and make the Pro Bowl his first year as a starter. You can watch highlights from his two full seasons as an entry below:

A high-flying passing game led by Blake and facilitated by Scott and wide receiver Carl Pickens was the highlight of Dark Ages of Bengals history, the period after Sam Wyche was sacked and before Marvin Lewis was hired. .

It is for this reason that it can be said that voters in Hamilton County would not have agreed to fund Paul Brown Stadium in March 1996 without Blake’s play. “You could argue that Paul Brown [Stadium] is the house that Jeff Blake built, ”said Geoff Hobson of “Because when he entered the line-up in ’94, ’95, ’96, people were enthusiastic. He gave them hope and he brought them back to the victory column.

While a 7-9 or 8-8 season, Blake’s two seasons as a full-time starter may not look very impressive now, they represent a huge improvement over the 3-13 seasons that came before. .

You can watch our entire interview with Hobson below:

You can also listen on iTunes or using the player below:

You can also check out an interview we did with Blake in 2015 where he discussed the Shake ‘n’ Blake craze in Cincinnati:

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