Thursday night in Miami, Giovani Bernard ripped off a run unlike any I can remember seeing in the NFL. It wasn't downhill, really. It was off a cliffside.
If you'd rather see this sideways rather than watch Gio fall off a cliff, click here.)
Bernard appeared certain to fall for a five-yard loss, but after two Dolphins slowed him to a halt, he managed to bust free. By this point the entire Miami defense had completely sold out for the right side of the field, as one does, so he reversed field, turned on the jets, and rolled down the left sideline.
Around the 25-yard line, Bernard slowed down a bit to follow his hastily-assembled cabal of blockers, which included quarterback Andy Dalton. He could afford to slow down, because nearly half the teal on the field was either lying down or spray-painted. He made the Dolphins miss six times -- cornerback Brent Grimes missed him once at the 40, then pulled himself to his feet, over-pursued, and missed again at the 11.
I don't think I've ever seen a rushing attempt look so much like a punt return; if you cut the first couple seconds out of this play, you'd probably believe it was.
It contains many of the major elements of a punt-return touchdown: first, the circuitous route. SportsCenter reported that Bernard ran 101.9 yards on a 35-yard touchdown. This play, like most great punt returns, resemble a Family Circus Sunday strip.
Second, Bernard's run lasted 16 seconds. I just spent a few minutes on YouTube timing other 35-yard runs, and almost every single one is seven seconds long. You could set your watch to them. There just isn't reason or time enough for running backs to take lengthy detours. A simple field-reversal, in this case, is all it took to temporarily alter the job descriptions of everyone on the field. It was a rushing attempt in name and by origin only.
And third, like most great punt returns, this one features what is probably an uncalled block in the back. It happened at the 43, in plain sight of the official who was right there, and part of me can't really blame him for not calling it. He has a lot of balls in the air, and watching for blocks in the back during a play that started with players snapping from scrimmage, like normal civilized people, is probably not one of them.
In his rookie season, Bernard is pacing himself to finish with well over 1,000 yards from scrimmage. Between him, Cincinnati's 75 different playmaking receivers, and the lovably inconsistent Andy Dalton, the Bengals might have one of the most fun-to-watch offenses in football. We could just as easily talk about the weird way this game ended -- an overtime sack-safety of Dalton that gave the Dolphins a 22-20 win.
This run, though. Between Halloween, a game that was nightmarishly bad at points, and a losing team wearing Halloween colors, it's just begging for a cute headline. Here is mine: GIO CAN RUN HIS ASS OFF, AND ALSO: HALLOWEEN.