x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Forgotten hero shines

Chad Johnson takes the glory for the Cincinnati Bengals but TJ Houshmandzadeh makes the difference.

TJ Houshmandzadeh shone for the Cincinnati Bengals in their first win of the season taking seven catches.
TJ Houshmandzadeh shone for the Cincinnati Bengals in their first win of the season taking seven catches.

Johnson takes glory but Houshmandzadeh makes the difference for the Bengals Soon the thoughts of gridiron fans will turn to playoff computations, and with each week it will be a process less of extrapolation than of elimination. Already Detroit and Cincinnati are lost causes, while Tennessee and Arizona seem cinches to advance. But let us pause a moment and consider that most forlorn of athletes, the good player on a bad team. Take Touraj (T.J.) Houshmandzadeh of Cincinnati's Bengals.

On Sunday he caught seven passes for 65 yards in the team's first win of the two-month old season, a 21-19 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Houshmandzadeh has been the Bengals' rock on offence this season and is on track to catch 100 passes. Yet even in the victory that elevated Cincinnati's record to 1-8 he was deprived the spotlight; as usual it fell instead on his teammate Chad Johnson, a camera hog who finally snapped his season-long slump with two first-half touchdowns.

But in the end, when Jacksonville tried an onside kick in order to get a final shot at victory, it was Houshmandzadeh who cradled the ball in his steady hands and kept the game safe. Houshmandzadeh, by the way, is one of the rare NFL players of Middle-Eastern extraction. His American mother and Iranian father met in California. They were together for two years but split up before T.J. was born. The father returned to Iran, where he works as a mechanical engineer for a petroleum company. Father and son had never spoken until shortly after Father's Day of last year, when T.J. made the call to Iran. The older man broke down in tears. It is not known whether the two have kept in touch.

rmckenzie@thenational.ae