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'Immaculate deflection' lives on in Broncos-Bengals lore

November 2, 2012
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photo - Denver Broncos wide receiver Brandon Stokley (14) reacts after scoring a touchdown as San Diego Chargers cornerback Marcus Gilchrist, right, motions to the referee during the second half of an NFL football game, Monday, Oct. 15, 2012, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy) Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Denver Broncos wide receiver Brandon Stokley (14) reacts after scoring a touchdown as San Diego Chargers cornerback Marcus Gilchrist, right, motions to the referee during the second half of an NFL football game, Monday, Oct. 15, 2012, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy) Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS 

ENGLEWOOD • Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis isn’t the only one haunted by the “Immaculate Deflection.”

So is Brandon Stokley, the wide receiver who caught the batted ball and raced 87 yards for the score with 11 seconds left, giving Denver an improbable 12-7 win at Cincinnati in the 2009 opener.

Lewis, whose Bengals (3-4) host the Broncos (4-3) Sunday, said, “Brandon runs through my mind all the time.” Stokley said he, too, has bad dreams about that play in which he cradled cornerback Leon Hall’s deflection at midfield and outraced linebacker Dhani Jones into the end zone.

It was the longest winning play from scrimmage in the final minute in NFL history.

When Jones started to pull up, Stokley had the presence of mind to tick an extra 4 seconds off the clock by veering right and running parallel to the goal line for several strides before stepping into the end zone.

Although Stokley was lauded as a heady veteran for the savvy move, he admitted this week that he’d do things differently today.

“I just kind of saw that nobody was behind me chasing me. I saw a guy kind of give up on it. I knew there wasn’t a lot of time left, so I thought why not try to run some time off?” Stokley said. “And then the next day, I kind of started having nightmares about it: What if I’d have gotten caught? What if I had fumbled? What if somebody would have hit me?”

The “Immaculate Deflection,” as it was immediately dubbed, sparked the Broncos to a 6-0 start that year.

“Well, we got lucky, plain and simple,” Champ Bailey said, after the Bengals had gone up 7-6 on Cedric Benson’s 1-yard TD run with 38 seconds left. “Stokley, he’s a crafty vet. He just made a play. He was in the right place at the right time.”

If his eyes had deceived him, however, or he flubbed the football somehow before scoring, Stokley would have been more like Leon Lett and not like Don Beebe, the protagonists in the famous Super Bowl play in which the Buffalo Bill knocked away the ball from the Dallas lineman as he prematurely celebrated a score.

Stokley has 21 catches for 235 yards and three touchdowns. Another case of being in the right place at the right time, just like he was on that sunny day in Cincinnati four years ago.

Porter ruled out

Cornerback Tracy Porter didn’t travel with the team and will miss his third straight game as doctors continue to regulate his medication to control seizures.

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