Thursday, December 17, 2009
Celebrating a Cincinnati Bengal: Chris Henry's Top Five Games
When Cincinnati Bengals fans turned on their television sets today, many of them probably had a reaction to Chris Henry's death that they didn't expect: tears.
For the past four years, the city of Cincinnati has lived through the highs and lows of Chris Henry's life. Henry had trouble adjusting to life as an NFL superstar and the conservative Queen City had trouble adjusting to Chris Henry.
After several transgressions, the city wanted Henry out of town, everyone except for one man that is.
In August 2008, Mike Brown decided to give Chris Henry one more chance, even after five arrests. Fans chastised the team owner at the time for the decision. In Cincinnati, the Bengals owner is more misunderstood than an impossible math problem. The fans, for their part, couldn't understand Brown's decision to keep Henry. But now we can. Brown had a soft spot for Henry. A soft spot that we all share now.
Mike Brown doesn't reveal soft spots publicly, but Thursday's tragedy forced him too. After watching Brown on television for 15 minutes today, we may not understand him anymore than we did, but we do understand that he is a human being who connected with another human being.
For the past 15 months, the city watched Henry stay out of trouble. For five Hard Knocks episodes we learned why Brown, Marvin Lewis and his Bengals teammates were always behind him: he was a likable guy. And the city found that out. Cincinnati is a forgiving city and the city forgave Chris Henry.
Just like most of their superstars, Cincinnatians don't know Chris Henry, but at the same time they do. Because of that impossible to explain relationship, between city and superstar, every member of Who-Dey nation is hurting today.
That's why INSIC wants to remember Henry in our way, by highlighting the big games where number 15 put a big smile on your orange and black painted face.
Games are in chronological order
The Coming Out Party (10/09/05 at Jacksonville): It was Sunday night football for the Bengals and rookie Chris Henry showed a national television audience just how much talent he had. The former West Virginia Mountaineer caught three balls for 85 yards. Henry's final catch of the night was a 25-yard fourth quarter touchdown pass from Carson Palmer that cut the Jaguar lead to 23-20. Henry also had a 47-yard catch in the game.
Cincinnati would lose the game, but Bengals fans and players alike knew that they had a lethal weapon on their hands.
The Playoff Game (01/08/06 vs. Pittsburgh): After a 15-year absence from the NFL playoffs, Bengals fans were clamoring for a win when the hated Steelers came to town for a Wild Card game. This wasn't a necessarily a big game for Chris, but for Bengals fans across the country, this is his stand out moment. The one he'll always be remembered for. On the first play from scrimmage, a play 15-years in the postseason making for Bengals fans, Carson Palmer unloaded a 66-yard bomb down field to his rookie wide receiver. Henry, like he had done all season, hauled in the long ball and the stadium went crazy. That is, until everyone looked back and saw Palmer on the ground. To this day, Bengals point to this Henry-to-Palmer play and ask, "What if?"
Tearing Up the Steel Curtain (09/24/06 at Pittsburgh): In the second quarter of this bitter rivalry game, Chris Henry gave the Steeler defense a third Bengal receiver to worry about. As the Steelers keyed in on T.J. Houshmanzadeh and Chad Johnson, Carson Palmer found a new favorite toy. Palmer hit Henry with two second quarter touchdown passes. The first one, from 16-yards out, tied the game at seven. The second one gave the Bengals a 14-7 lead. Cincinnati would need each and every score that Henry provided as the Bengals would only hold on to win 28-20. Henry finished the game with five catches for 69 yards and the two touchdowns.
New Year's Eve (12/31/06 vs. Pittsburgh): With the Bengals fighting for their playoff lives in the 2006 season finale, Chris Henry came to play. Once again the Steeler defense keyed in on the Bengals two biggest playmakers, Housh and Chad. And once again, Henry exploited it. This time to the tune of 124 yards. The biggest play of the day for Henry was a 66-yard touchdown pass from Palmer that gave the Bengals a 10-7 fourth quarter lead. Unfortunately for Henry and Bengals fans, the 124-yard, 4-catch effort would be in vain as Pittsburgh would win 23-20 in overtime.
Henry's Importance to the Offense (10/11/09 at Baltimore): For the past six weeks, Bengals fans have been wondering where the offense has gone. This October game against Baltimore proves all you need to know about Henry: he was vital to the team's air attack. In a game where he didn't score, Henry hauled in three catches for 92 yards. More importantly, it was Palmer's biggest passing day of the year and it's probably not a coincidence that Henry's 92-yards were also his most on the year.