WR Sanu shows off arm in NFL
Sanu lined up in a wildcat formation, took the snap and threw a 73-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green on Cincinnati's first play during a 38-31 win in Washington last Sunday, the Bengals' most successful trick play in years.
The Redskins were surprised. Not the Bengals (2-1), who saw Sanu throw the ball during a charity flag football game in the spring and again during training camp, when he'd imitate the opposing quarterback on the scout team.
Before a preseason opener against the Jets, Sanu got to play Tim Tebow and throw it down the field. When offensive coordinator Jay Gruden put the wildcat play in the plan last week, everyone was eager to see how it turned out.
''We had the luxury of watching Mo throw the ball in the spring,'' receiver Andrew Hawkins said. ''We played in a flag football charity event and the dude can sling it. When they put it in, we got all excited.
''He threw it around 50 yards in the air and dropped it in on a dime to A.J.''
It was something totally different for the Bengals, who hadn't gotten a completed pass from one of their receivers since Carl Pickens did it in 1999. Nothing new for Sanu, a high school quarterback who ran the wildcat at Rutgers and completed a 51-yard touchdown pass against the University of Cincinnati.
The Bengals drafted Sanu in part because of his versatility. They decided to let him throw one in a game until last week, figuring the Redskins' penchant for going after the quarterback would leave them vulnerable to the trick play.
Gruden devised the play and ran it in practice. He decided two days before the game to make it the opening play.
''He asked me if I was ready, and I told him yeah, sure,'' Sanu said. ''He had enough confidence in me.''
And Sanu had plenty of confidence in his arm. He was a high school quarterback for three seasons. Rutgers used his ability to throw crisp, accurate passes in various wildcat plays. He stunned the University of Cincinnati during the 2010 season by lining up in a wildcat formation on the opening play - sound familiar? - and throwing a 51-yard touchdown pass to running back Jordan Thomas, who was uncovered along the sideline.
It was the first touchdown of the highest-scoring game in Big East history, won by the Bearcats 69-38.
Of course, that was two years ago. Aside from that flag football game and a few snaps on the scout team, Sanu hadn't done anything to keep his arm in passing shape.
''I haven't thrown in a while,'' he said.
The Redskins and Green made it easy.
The play called for Sanu to read the defense at the line of scrimmage and react accordingly. If Green had single coverage, he would let it fly. If Green was double-covered, Sanu would get the snap and run.
Washington lined up in man-to-man coverage with a safety on Green in the slot - easy pickings for the Pro Bowl receiver. The pass was on.
''I just took a deep breath and let it rip,'' Sanu said.
He dropped back, reared back and threw the ball 50 yards in the air, hitting Green in stride down the middle of the field. The sideline erupted.
''We were definitely on edge, especially the receivers,'' Hawkins said. ''We were curious to see if Mo was going to clam up on us, but he didn't. The dude threw a strike. He threw it even better than he did in practice. That tells you what Mo is like.''
In the aftermath, Sanu got calls and texts from family and friends, including former Rutgers teammates who had seen that arm before. Sanu was 8 of 18 for 207 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions during his college career.
''I talked to some of the guys,'' Sanu said Wednesday. ''They were like, `We ran that play a couple of times at Rutgers.' They were clowning and joking with me.''
Not so funny back in Washington.
Notes: DE Michael Johnson was named the AFC's defensive player of the week for his three-sack performance in Washington. ... The Bengals' two starting cornerbacks missed practice on Wednesday. Leon Hall sat out the game at Washington with a sore calf/hamstring and didn't practice. Nate Clements also missed practice with a sore calf. RB Bernard Scott (ankle) and LT Andrew Whitworth (knee) didn't practice, either.