NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 06: A.J. Green #18 of the Cincinnati Bengals makes a catch as Akeem Ayers #56 and Jason McCourty #30 of the Tennessee Titans defend during play at LP Field on November 6, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
With 12:34 remaining in the fourth quarter, down by three points, Andre Smith inadvertently saved the Cincinnati Bengals with the unusual act of an offensive hold. Case in point: Kyle Cook shotguns the snap on third and seven. Titans defensive end David Bell fires from his three-point stance and sprints upfield, baiting Bengals right tackle Andre Smith to shift his weight onto his outside foot. The act momentarily causes Smith to lose his base of power, easily allowing Bell to push Smith aside. Rather than watching his quarterback get killed, the offensive tackle used his massive left hand to grip the defensive end, scoring a two-point take-down. Dalton feels the pressure anyway, scrambles up the middle to gain seven yards, falling a yard shy of the first down. The Titans accept the penalty and what comes next was the play that, could be argued, won the game for Cincinnati.
After Andre Smith's offensive holding, the Bengals were pushed back to the Titans 27-yard line with 18 yards needed for the first down. Granted. A draw, or a screen pass, could have closed the gap for Mike Nugent to tie the game. And the way Cincinnati's defense was playing in the second half, the Bengals could have probably tied the game and eventually won the game. Plenty of time remained for at least two, if not three, possessions.
But they didn't.
Andy Dalton shouted the play to his brothers, breaking the huddle while the camera focuses on Andre Smith solemnly walking to the line of scrimmage, clearly expressing disappointment for letting his teammates down. Andy Dalton stood five yards behind the line of scrimmage in shotgun with Brian Leonard flanking his right. Andre Caldwell was in the left slot with Jerome Simpson on his outside. A.J. Green stood alone, wide right with Donald Lee on his inside in the customary three-point stance for a tight end.
Simpson and Green go vertical while Lee and Caldwell break out towards their respective sidelines five yards off the line of scrimmage. Titans defensive end David Bell took an inside step, easily picked up by Bobbie Williams. Outside linebacker Colin McCarthy blitzed upfield and Smith's reaction was slow enough that McCarthy may have sacked Dalton without being touched. Leonard picked up and neutralized the linebacker, giving Dalton plenty of time in the pocket to survey his options.
As McCarthy is edged around Dalton, keeping his pocket secure, the quarterback lazily pumped faked down the middle and unleashed the football downfield. A.J. Green, stopping and turning five yards after the first down marker, jumped up the ladder with two Titans defenders closing in for the hit. Green secured the football with two hands, completing the reception and picking up the first down on the 20-yard catch.
If Andre Smith doesn't commit his offensive holding penalty, the Bengals are stuck with a fourth and one, likely attempting (and converting) a guaranteed field goal. Since the Bengals had a second chance at third down, Cincinnati would score the game-winning touchdown three plays later on a five-yard reception to Andre Caldwell.
Though for the case of education, it's probably best not to teach kids that penalties have their benefits too.