Bengals win HistoryFest

Rudi Johnson picks up a few of his 202 yards on the day. (Bengals photo)

In conjunction with our current fan poll, over the next several days we will be taking a look back at the most memorable games of the Marvin Lewis era. Next up (11/28/04): The Bengals and Browns combine for 106 points in the highest scoring game by both teams in an NFL game since the 1970 merger. Here is a reprint of the game summary as written by's Geoff Hobson.

Updated: 7:15 p.m.

This is the kind of game it was:

The kind of game that took away your senses along with your breath.

"I don't even know what the score was," said Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer after the Bengals and Browns turned The Battle of Ohio into a video game in time for the Christmas shoppers Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium before 65,677 utterly drained and puzzled spectators. "But it was a fun game for a quarterback to be in."

Try 58-48, Bengals, in the highest scoring game by both teams in an NFL game since the 1970 merger, as well as the second highest scoring game in league history. Now 5-6, the Bengals next week try to crawl a game within second place in the AFC North against a Ravens team that stands at 7-4.

"There's no need to try to sit here and analyze and be logical about what happened in that second half," said Bengals linebacker Brian Simmons. "That was from somewhere else."

113Redskins (72) vs. Giants (41)Nov. 27, 1966
106Bengals (58) vs. Browns (48)Nov. 28, 2004
101Raiders (52) vs. Oilers (49)Dec. 22, 1963
99Seahawks (51) vs. Chiefs (48), OTNov. 27, 1983
The Bengals went from a 27-13 halftime lead to down by 48-44 with 10:22 left in the game, to Bengals cornerback Deltha O'Neal stepping in front of Browns tight end Aaron Shea and picking off quarterback Kelly Holcomb's pass at the Cleveland 31 for a run-it-back touchdown with 1:43 left that accounted for the Elias Sports Bureau final score.

"On Madden. On the video game, I've scored that many points," said Bengals linebacker Kevin Hardy when asked the closest he'd ever been to such a Points Fest.

More Simmons: "It was like a pinball machine the way the scoreboard was lighting up. It was a crazy game. I've been here seven years, and I've never been part of a game where there were so many points scored. On a day like this, you just have to be happy that you came out on the winning side."

Offense rolls
The 48 points are the most the Bengals have ever allowed in a win, 10 more than what the 49ers scored on them back on Dec. 14 in a 41-38 win at PBS.

"It was one of those games where you could have gone out and marked plays up in the dirt, throw the ball around, and run up and down the field," said wide receiver Kelley Washington, whose 18-yard touchdown catch just two minutes into the game started the Bengals' biggest scoring day in 15 years. "It starts with the offensive line, but we all put together a good performance offensively."

At least Hardy and Palmer, and the rest could remember the particulars. After receiving a blow to the head on the Bengals' second series, wide receiver Chad Johnson said he had no recollection of himself putting the Bengals in the lead for the first time at 14-7 with a superb 46-yard touchdown catch through a defender five minutes into the game.

Claiming a "mild concussion," he couldn't remember most of his 10 catches for 117 yards. Or the big one, an 11-yard catch crossing in front of Browns cornerback Anthony Henry on third-and-four from the Bengals 46, and the Bengals down, 48-44.

Four plays later, Bengals running back Rudi Johnson scored on a seven-yard bolt behind right guard Bobbie Williams and right tackle Willie Anderson for a touchdown that gave the Bengals a 51-48 lead with 6:29 left in the game.

On the previous snap, a third-and-two, Johnson danced behind those two again for a 28-yard gain as the Bengals scored the most points in the NFL this season and their most since the infamous 61-7 "Goodbye Glanville" win over Houston in 1989.

"The first thing I remember," said Chad Johnson after the cobwebs cleared, "was Rudi running the ball to my side (in the fourth quarter). And I was putting up a heck of a block."

Palmer's career day
Rudi Johnson got a lot of those in racking up the fourth best rushing day in club history with 202 yards on 26 carries in supporting Palmer's first-ever four-touchdown game. Palmer's 251 passing yards combined with Johnson's work yielded 504 total yards, the Bengals' most since Jon Kitna passed for 411 of 544 against the Steelers on Dec. 30, 2001.

The Bengals' 253 rushing yards on an astounding 7.9 yards per carry came against the NFL's 12th best defense, and were the club's most since Dec. 3, 2000. The 202 yards (the second most in the NFL this season next to the Colts' Edgerrin James' 204 last week) put Johnson over 1,000 yards for the first time in his career with 1,049 and on pace to break Corey Dillon's club record for rushing yards in a season by 99 with 1,526.

It marked just the third time in Bengals history the team rushed and passed for at least 250 yards each, and the first time since the offensive blizzards of Sam Wyche and Boomer Esiason. The Bengals rushed for 300 and passed for 284 on Dec. 7, 1986 in a 31-7 win at New England, which was 364 days after they went for 274 rushing and 296 passing in a 50-24 win over Dallas at Riverfront Stadium.

Defense saves the day
So, naturally, it came down to a defensive play when O'Neal finally solved Holcomb and doused his torrid passing that netted 348 yards in the second half and 413 for the game.

Facing first-and-10 from his own 31 with 1:52 left and trailing, 51-48, Holcomb kept looking to his left before suddenly throwing to his right and to Shea.

"It was a zone and I don't think (Holcomb) saw me. I don't think he thought I was going to be in that area," said O'Neal after he scored the Bengals' fourth defensive touchdown of the season, one away from the 1983 team record. "I didn't expect him to throw it because he was looking the other way.

"Yeah, I thought it was over when I scored," O'Neal said. "I knew our offense would hold the ball with Rudi."

61Dec. 17, 1972@ Houston
61Dec. 17, 1989vs. Houston
58Nov. 28, 2004vs. Cleveland
56Oct. 29, 1989vs. Tampa Bay
55Nov. 6, 1983@ Houston
But Palmer and O'Neal, and the Johnsons had to be so good to counter Holcomb's first five-touchdown game of his career in the highest scoring game in Bengals history. It surpassed the 86-point fest nearly seven years to the day of the Eagles' 44-42 win in Philadelphia on Nov. 30, 1997.

"We didn't make many plays, but at least we made two when we had to have them," said left end Duane Clemons, referring to O'Neal's pick and a drive-ending sack by rookie end Robert Geathers with 5:13 left and the Bengals leading, 51-48.

"You owe me"
Palmer had an up-and-down game that stands as a microcosm of his first season. His third interception of game wasn't his fault, since it went through the hands of wide receiver Chad Johnson at his own 31-yard-line. Somehow, Johnson ended up kicking it into the arms of Browns linebacker Barry Gardner for a devastating 30-yard return that resulted in Holcomb's one-yard touchdown flip to tight end Steve Heiden that gave Cleveland the 48-44 lead with 10:22 left in the game.

"I didn't have to jump for it, but I did," said Chad, who remembered that particular play. "And after the ball went down, it hit my foot and bounced up."

Palmer told him simply, "You owe me," and Johnson paid him back with the third-and-four catch moments later. Last month, Cleveland held the Bengals to one of 13 on third down. Palmer turned it around with 7-for-11 on Sunday.

On a day the teams combined for the most points in the history of the rivalry, no lead was safe. In the first minute of the last quarter, Shayne Graham's 36-yard field goal gave the Bengals only a 10-point lead at 44-34 even though Palmer had already thrown for 223 yards and Johnson had run for 160.

Graham hit all three of his shots to make it 13 straight and 22-of-24 on the season.

The Bengals defense, so good against the big play since getting burned up in Cleveland last month, got torched by Holcomb and his band of faceless receivers that suddenly became toxic down the field. In the previous 17 quarters coming into the game, the Bengals hadn't allowed a wide receiver to catch a ball longer than 27 yards.

But on Sunday, wide receivers Antonio Bryant and Dennis Northcutt caught bombs of 55 and 39, respectively (Bryant's went for a touchdown on a two-play drive that made it 41-34 with 3:39 left in the third quarter), and Heiden added a 30-yard catch.

Holcomb brought the Browns to within 44-41, on passes of 30 and 22 yards to his tight ends with 10:51 left in the game in a drive capped by running back William Green's one-yard run.

Palmer's fourth touchdown pass of the game, a leaping 53-yard catch-and-run by wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh over cornerback Daylon McCutcheon looked to put it away at 34-20 three minutes into the second half.

But the fun was just beginning.

Fireworks begin early
In what was supposed to be a defensive struggle, the teams showered the PBS crowd with 21 points in the first five minutes as Cincinnati microwaved a 27-13 halftime lead with three scoring drives of three scores each.

Palmer, who started despite suffering back spasms earlier in the week, threw three touchdown passes in the first half as Rudi Johnson logged a quick 113 yards on his first 11 carries.

Also getting into the act were rookie cornerback Keiwan Ratliff with a 49-yard punt return, and cornerback Tory James with his NFL-leading seventh interception that bounced off the hands of Bryant with 19 seconds left in the half.

Those plays resulted in Graham field goals from 21 and 32 yards, respectively, the last with two seconds left after Palmer threw an 11-yard arrow to wide receiver Kelley Washington on the sideline, and ran for 11 more yards to the other sideline on a scramble out of the pocket.

During his 130-yard half, Palmer also threw two interceptions for 10 Cleveland points.

Palmer tied the game at seven when he scrambled away from pressure and found Washington for an 18-yard touchdown 2:02 into the game, and then less than three minutes later hit Chad Johnson on the 46-yard touchdown for a 14-7 lead.

Johnson's longest catch since his pair of 50-yard catches last month against Denver came on terrific concentration as he eyed the long ball through the arms of cornerback Anthony Henry and cradled it in the end zone.

Johnson bowed to the crowd in the end zone, and again on the sidelines when he took off his helmet. But he needed that. He took that shot to the head early in the game after Crocker's tackle running a reverse for nine yards, and wasn't on the field for the first touchdown. He went into the Bengals locker room at the end of the first quarter to get checked again and came back on the field for the first series of the second quarter.

This one he didn't want to miss. After calling last month's outing in Cleveland his worst game in two years with just three catches for 37 yards, Johnson had six catches for 89 in Sunday's first half. He also had two false start penalties after the hit in the head.

Rudi rolls
His partner in Johnson, Rudi, also went long distance when he ripped off his longest run of the season on a 52-yarder that set up the first touchdown. Rudi Johnson, who didn't have a run longer than 20 yards in the last four games, followed left guard Eric Steinbach and left tackle Levi Jones, and then used a nice downfield block by wide receiver Kevin Walter to get another 10 to 15 yards.

Rudi also popped a draw behind Steinbach and Jones, and deked cornerback Daylon McCutcheon for a 21-yard gain to set up Palmer's third touchdown pass. Houshmandzadeh caught his first scoring pass of the season, a three-yarder in the middle of the field to give the Bengals a 21-13 lead with 6:19 left in the half.

Rudi went to his offensive linemen and other blockers Saturday night and during the week, and vowed to finally break some long ones.

"We know he's got that little move to make guys miss. We knew if we could get him to that second level, he'd do it," Anderson said. "The strength of their defense is their front, and we wanted to give him some room."

Ratliff, who followed his wall before cutting back up the middle, traded head slaps with Browns defensive back Michael Lehan on the final leg of his 49-yarder with 4:11 left in the half during the Bengals' longest punt return of the season.

Palmer's second throw of the game was badly overthrown to Chad Johnson in a crowd, picked off by Henry, and returned to the Cincinnati 7. Holcomb wasted no time finding Heiden from there for a 7-0 lead just 33 seconds into the game.

But the Bengals defense continued its hot streak. The unit did allow its first run longer than 20 yards since Browns running back William Green did it five games ago on a 26-yarder, and this time he rumbled for 46 to put the ball at the Bengals 9. But the Browns had to resort to Phil Dawson's 23-yard field goal to make it 14-10 with 5:14 left in the first quarter.

Then, after Palmer overthrew Rudi Johnson and got picked off by linebacker Andra Davis, the defense offered another stand and the Browns had to get another field goal from Dawson, this one from 29 on the first play of the second quarter to cut the lead to 14-13.

The Bengals didn't allow the Browns much in the first half as their defensive front manhandled the Browns' re-aligned offensive line. Cleveland rushed for just 61 yards, and Holcomb was hurried into a 9-of-14 passing half for 65 yards.

Pregame notes
Palmer got the nod to start Sunday and said his back caused him no problems. But the Browns turned out to be more battered than the Bengals.

Running back Lee Suggs and wide receiver Andre' Davis, who scored on pass plays of 59 and 99 yards, respectively, last month against the Bengals, were inactive, and injuries made them shake up their offensive line for the fifth time this season.

With right tackle Ryan Tucker and right guard Kelvin Garmon out, the Browns turned to a guard-tackle combination with eight career starts coming in, and tackle Joaquin Gonzalez had all of them. Guard Damion Cook, a third-year player and former college defensive lineman, made his first NFL start.

Gonzalez had a key penalty when he lined up illegally on the Bengals 13 on a play that forced one of the field goals, and defensive tackle John Thornton had six tackles and a sack working against Cook.

Bengals rookie running back Chris Perry, who has been battling an abdominal strain, was inactive for the sixth straight game. Also inactive for the Bengals were cornerbacks Rashad Bauman and Terrell Roberts, offensive linemen Alex Sulfsted and Stacey Andrews, and defensive linemen Carl Powell and Matthias Askew.

Palmer emerged from the Bengals locker room about 10:45 a.m., and appeared to throw easily to Chad Johnson and tight end Matt Schobel in showing no visible signs of a back problem.

Palmer left the second half of Thursday's practice with the spasms and did only minimal work Friday without participating in the 11-on-11 sections of practice.

The Bengals captains for the game were Chad Johnson and linebackers Kevin Hardy, Landon Johnson and Marcus Wilkins.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content