James Francis and the Cincinnati Bengals hosted the Detroit Lions in a late November matchup during the team's 1992 season. The linebacker hauled in two interceptions against Lions quarterback Erik Kramer, posting a franchise-best 107 yards on interception returns.
Now the mandatory embarrassing part of the early 90s.
Francis posted more yards than the entire Bengals offense that afternoon and did what the offense couldn't -- score a touchdown. Boomer Esiason and the offense gained 95 yards as an offense, with a 2.3 yard/rush average, during a defensive struggle in which the biggest touchdown threat came on a trick play. Once Bengals running back Derrick Fenner received the handoff from Esiason, Lions cornerback, and former Cincinnati Bearcat, Melvin Jenkins came up strong to support the run, allowing wide receiver Tim McGee to sprint past the secondary towards the endzone. Electric anticipation could be heard; the calm before an explosive reaction from the fans on an exciting play. As soon as he recognized the trick play, Jenkins reversed course. Since the pass had no zip behind it, a rainbow through the chilly winds of Riverfront Stadium, Jenkins was able to recover and knock the pass down.
The Bengals ended up losing 19-13 that afternoon to a Lions team that came into the game with a record of 2-8 (the Bengals were 4-6). Lions running back Barry Sanders posted 151 yards rushing on 29 carries.
Francis, the Bengals biggest offensive threat that afternoon, caught his first interception from Kramer while diving through the air; the second was returned 66 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Francis also posted two quarterback sacks and seven total tackles during an afternoon that should have ended with a celebration of his performance.
In nine seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals (1990-1998), Francis was one of the best (if not the best) defensive players during the 90s. Along with holding the team record for most interception return yards in a game, Francis' three touchdowns on interceptions is tied for third all-time in franchise history and his 33 quarterback sacks ranks in the top-seven.
Francis is our pick as the best Bengals player to wear number 50 all-time. Here's the rest of our announcement on the best Bengals players to wear numbers 41-50. You can see the previous announcements here: 1-10, 11-20, 21-30 and 31-40.
|No. 41:||Chinedum Ndukwe||DB||2007-2010|
|No. 42:||Boobie Clark||RB||1974-1978|
|No. 43:||Mike Brim||CB||1993-1995|
|No. 44:||Doug Dressler||RB||1970-1974|
|No. 45:||Archie Griffin||RB||1976-1983|
|No. 46:||Pete Johnson||RB||1977-1983|
|No. 47:||Corey Lynch||DB||2008|
|No. 48:||Brad St. Louis||LS||2000-2009|
|No. 49:||Guy Frazier||LB||1981-1984|
|No. 50:||James Francis||LB||1990-1998|