TDBH: A win in Rattler’s Riverfront farewell.
December 11, 2017 05:00 AM | Geoff Hobson
Cornerback Ken Riley, who has played more Bengals games than anyone ever while amassing the NFL's fourth most interceptions of all-time, knows he's going to retire before he plays his 15th season. In true Riley fashion he doesn't announce it because he doesn't want to bring attention to himself. But when the Bengals decide to honor him at today's Riverfront Stadium season finale, he comes clean during his half-time speech while his teammates are lined up chanting "Rattler, Rattler," the nickname a Bengals assistant coach bestowed the Florida A&M rookie all those years ago in honor of the school's nickname. "It was a highly emotional day for us," says Bengals head coach Forest Gregg. "We all wanted to win it for No. 13."

And they do on a dank, drizzly day unremarkable except for Riley's farewell and a 7-8 Bengals team going nowhere preventing the Lions from clinching the NFC Central Division during a 17-9 victory in which Detroit runs through quarterbacks Eric Hipple and Gary Danielson, 80 yards from Billy Sims on 20 carries that break his skein of four straight 100-yard games, and just 221 total yards and nothing near a touchdown drive. They get their field goals off a blocked punt, an interception, and a Hail Mary at the end of the half. Sims either does or doesn't tell a Detroit radio station a few days before the game that he plans to sit in the stands next week after the Lions clinch today. "That's what the coaches told us," says Bengals middle linebacker Jim LeClair. "Maybe he didn't. But it still fired me up."

The fired-up Bengals survive quarterback Ken Anderson's second-quarter exit when he gets hit in the head on a 14-yard scramble and backup Turk Schonert's six of 19 passing off the bench that's not helped by the steady rain. The answer is 26 handoffs to running back Pete Johnson for 118 yards and the game's two touchdowns. "It's not an advantage," says the 250-pound Johnson of the rain. "They just give it to me more." The defense sets the table and Riley rises to the occasion. He teams with safety Robert Jackson to drill Sims after his longest run of the day, a 15-yarder, and Riley falls on the fumble at the Detroit 38 to set up the game's first touchdown.

At the half his team and fans thank the ultimate pro for 206 games of efforts like that one. The 207th and last comes next week in Minnesota where, of course, he'll end it all with two interceptions. Today with his wife, children, and college coach gathered around the microphone, Riley receives a painting of him making an interception against Cleveland and a silver tray and pitcher while his teammates and coaches give him a silver ice bucket inscribed with the words "A player's player." Wide receiver Isaac Curtis speaks for the team and thanks him "for his leadership, his friendship, his dedication to every one of us." Later in the locker room Curtis recalls his rookie year when Riley takes him under his wing and explains how he's tipping his routes. Across the locker room Riley says softly his kids are at the age they need a full-time father. "I've played 15 years and I'm 36 years old. I wanted to go out with my head high," Riley says. "Nobody's throwing me out. I'm leaving. I didn't want people to say Ken had gotten too old." Cornerback Louis Breeden, another young gun Riley has nurtured says good-bye the best: "We didn't have a Gipper, but we had a Rattler. There was no way we were going to lose. No way."

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