When we think of top plays, we're not just thinking about the individual play. That's the folly of ESPN's Top Ten. The plays often have no impact on the game... it's mostly things that look pretty (Bill Simmons nods). In our top plays of 2014, we're trying to do both, mix beauty with substance. Did a huge play have a big impact? For example... did Giovani Bernard's 50-yard run, with 17 spin moves and 14 leaps result in a touchdown, or at the very least was it clock-management? Sure it was pretty but what impact did it have if the Bengals still punted?
That's the point. George Iloka secured two interceptions against the Falcons... and while they weren't necessarily pretty, (and some may say that their grandmother could have caught it) Iloka was a significant contributor in Cincinnati's win.
For the past two years, Bengals fans have demanded... DEMANDED... a playmaking safety who would join Reggie Nelson in the secondary. Free agents. Sure. The NFL draft... sure...but there haven't been many playmakers at safety. In the meantime, Cincinnati continued grooming a former fifth-rounder in George Iloka -- the Bengals used a pick that they acquired from the New York Giants in exchange for linebacker Keith Rivers.
As we look back at the 2014 season -- well, all three games of it, there have been few performances better than George Iloka's showing against the Atlanta Falcons. With 1:49 remaining in the third quarter, Atlanta had an opportunity to reduce their 21-point deficit by a touchdown at the Bengals 21-yard line. Matt Ryan faked the handoff and lofted the football toward the middle of the endzone. Iloka, playing the receiver while scouting the field, reacted and intercepts the football.
In a way, the interception secured Cincinnati's win. Cincinnati would use a ton of clock and Atlanta, still down by 21 points, didn't see the football until the 12:34 mark in the fourth quarter. After scoring a touchdown and patiently waiting for Cincinnati to punt the football back, Atlanta had fourth down from their own 26-yard line. Iloka intercepted Ryan's desperation throw, securing Cincinnati's 24-10 win.
Now the Bengals were 2-0... and a threat to anyone on their schedule.
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