Updated: 4:55 p.m.
CLEVELAND -Shayne Graham's field goal on the final play of overtime barely sliced through the right upright and the Bengals survived with a 23-20 win over the Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium. It was Graham's first-ever overtime field goal and his first game-winning kick since December 11, 2005, also against the Browns.
After taking over at their 20 with 3:23 remaining in overtime, Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer converted two long third-down plays as well as a decisive 15-yard scramble on fourth-and-11 to give the Bengals a first down at the Browns 26 with 1:04 left in the extra session. With the Browns out of timeouts, the Bengals got a 10-yard screen pass from Palmer to running back Brian Leonard and then a 4-yard Leonard rush to set Graham's game winner that moved the Bengals to 3-1 and a first-place tie with Baltimore atop the AFC North.
The game-winning drive did not come without a few anxious moments. Facing a third-and-10 from their own 20 with 2:40 to go, Palmer hit Chris Henry for 20 yards and a first down to the 40-yard-line. Then on the ensuing series the Bengals faced another third-and-10 and Palmer connected on a 20-yard completion again, this time to Laveranues Coles to give the Bnegals a first down on the Cleveland 40 with 2:07 remaining.
A Palmer pass to tight end Daniel Coats went for no gain and a sack of Palmer on the next play put the Bengals in a third-and-13 hole at the Browns 43 at the two-minute warning. On the next play the Bengals could manage only a three-yard Palmer pass to Leonard to set up a fourth-and-10 situation. At first Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis sent punter Kevin Huber on the field, but a little prodding by Palmer changed his mind and he chose to leave the offense on the field.
Palmer couldn't find an open receiver and after avoiding the Browns rush, scrambled up the middle for 15 yards and the first down with 1:04 left and to set up the final series that ended with Graham's game-winner.
Palmer hits Ochocinco to tie it up
The Bengals got another heroic finish from quarterback Palmer when he scrambled around on fourth and two from the Browns 2 before flipping a touchdown pass to wide receiver Chad Ochocinco with 1:55 left in regulation to tie the game at 20.
It should gave been Palmer?s second straight fourth quarter victory, but long snapper Brad St. Louis? second high snap of the day resulted in Browns defensive tackle Shaun Rogers? blocked extra point to keep the game tied. A errant St. Louis snap led to a blocked field goal on the game?s first series.
The Browns, with no timeouts left, faced a fourth-and-10 from the Bengals 40 with 23 seconds left and opted to punt after a blitz led to an incomplete pass and the game went to the extra session.
Bengals fall behind
With 6:34 left in suddenly alive Cleveland Browns Stadium, the paralyzed Bengals offense fell behind, 20-14, on Billy Cundiff?s 31-yard field goal.
As he did all day, Browns punt returner Josh Cribbs set up the score, this one off a bad kick by Huber down the middle of the field and missed tackles by defensive end Michael Johnson and safeties Chris Crocker and Tom Nelson resulted in a 50-yard return just off his 39-yarder in the third quarter.
In the last drive of regulation, Palmer got a huge 16-yard catch from Henry, a 16-yard run by rookie running back Bernard Scott, and 27-yard catch from tight end J.P Foschi.
The left-for-dead Browns, revived by a Bengals offense that couldn?t put them away, took a 17-14 lead on the reeling Bengals early in the fourth quarter.
With their offense flailing without a first down in the second and third, the Bengals fell into a 14-14 tie with the suddenly alive Browns when quarterback Derek Anderson walked in from a yard out on fourth down tie it. On the ensuing kickoff the Bengals looked to fritter it all away when wide receiver Andre Caldwell fumbled the kickoff at the Bengals 20 with 1:29 left in the third quarter.
The Bengals did force a field goal with a big stop from the center of the line when safety Chinedum Ndukwe finished off running back Jerome Harrison for no gain on third-and-one, but Cundiff?s 26-yard field goal on the first snap of the fourth quarter gave the Browns their first lead of the day at 17-14.
And a game that was supposed to be so easy, just got tougher when linebacker Brandon Johnson was called for an illegal block on the ensuing kickoff and put the Bengals in a hole at their own 10.
The Bengals then took their fourth straight three-and-out when quarterback Carson Palmer put too much air under a pass to wide open Henry and it was batted away on the left sideline. And they began to lose their composure when left tackle Andrew Whitworth was called for a personal foul after the play and gave Cleveland good field position.
That came moments after Bengals defensive tackle Pat Sims traded punches with Browns wide receiver Braylon Edwards in earning offsetting penalties.
Joseph comes up big again
For the second week in a row, Bengals cornerback Johnathan Joseph gave his team a huge lift early in the second half when he stepped in front of Browns tight end Steve Heiden at the Cincinnati goal line for an interception that preserved the tenuous Bengals 14-7 lead with 8:38 left in the third quarter.
But the Bengals offense, seeking its first first down since the first quarter, went out on yet another three-and-out when facing a third-and-four following a fumble by running back Cedric Benson. The ball slipped out of Palmer?s hand in the pocket and fell at his feet.
The Browns offense, dead last in offense, punished the exhausted Bengals defense on the ground as Harrison, playing for the injured Jamal Lewis, got the first 100-yard game of his career and the Browns? first since 2007.
After two opening drives that ate 21 plays and all but three snaps of the first quarter, the Bengals let the Browns back into the game when Cleveland rookie receiver Mohamed Massaquoi raced past Joseph on a third-and-two for a 29-yard catch that set up the second Browns touchdown of the season with 1:26 left in the first half to cut Cincinnati?s lead to 14-7.
The culprits? A suddenly stone cold offense and poor special teams that cost the Bengals another field goal and a field day from Cribbs.
Anderson, who had missed on eight of his 11 passes before the throw to Massaquoi, then rolled out and hit tight end Steve Heiden working against middle linebacker Dhani Jones for a one-yard touchdown that brought up eerie similarites to the week before in Paul Brown Stadium when the Steelers let the Bengals hang around.
Bengals jump to early lead
After left end Robert Geathers returned a fumble 75 yards for a touchdown in the first minute of the second quarter to give the Bengals a 14-0 lead, they missed a chance to stomp on the winless Browns and fuel an angry crowd at Cleveland Browns Stadium. The offense couldn?t deflate the clock against the NFL?s third worst defense with Benson managing just 25 yards on seven carries and the half ended with three three-and-outs and an interception.
As the Bengals feared, with the clock ticking under four minutes Cribbs gave the Browns life with a 39-yard return that Huber floated down the middle of the field. That set up Cleveland?s second touchdown in 10 games.
The Bengals finally got on the board on their 21st snap with 35 seconds left in the first quarter when wide receiver Chad Ochocinco made a one-handed, pink-gloved grab on quarterback Carson Palmer?s five-yard floater in the right corner of the end zone.
Ochocinco had one-one coverage from cornerback Eric Wright and Palmer immediately went to the fade. It was a tad overthrown but The Ocho dove and stretched the arm out to haul it in and came down with one elbow and knee inbounds.
When the Browns then threatened the red zone on Harrison?s sweep to the left, Bengals cornerback Leon Hall punched the ball out and Geathers plucked it out of the air and went 75 yards for a touchdown with an escort of Hall and linebacker Rey Maualuga and no one else.
On the play before, Palmer and running back Brian Leonard kept the 11-play, 62-yard drive alive on a third-and-four dump pass for eight yards. Scott had kept it going a few minutes earlier on fourth-and-three when the Bengals loaded up the right side for a sweep that got 10 yards.
The Bengals came out with a host of different formations in the game?s first series and drove to the Browns 5 but had Graham?s 23-yard field blocked by Shaun Rogers with 8:15 left in the first quarter following a high snap from St. Louis.
The Bengals didn?t start Ochocinco (with a white chinstrap) when they went triple tight ends with tackle Dennis Rolannd and got a 19-yard pass to tight end Daniel Coats. Palmer converted a third-and-six for 24-yards to wide receiver Andre Caldwell running away from safety Mike Adams. After a play-action fake, Palmer got the ball to The Ocho over the middle for a 17-yard gain that put the ball on the Cleveland 13.
But on second down Benson dropped a pass in the flat, running before he had it, and on third down Palmer had to run five yards up the middle when he got flushed in the pocket.
Rogers then came up with his 13th career field goal block coming up the middle. Two high snaps from St. Louis this season have led to a failed field goal and extra point.
Palmer hit 10 of his first 12 passes for 111 yards, but the Bengals offense couldn?t string together any consistency and he gave the Browns a breath of hope with 6:28 left when he rolled out after play-action from his own 11 on first down and whipped a deep pass down the right sideline for wide receiver Laveranues Coles into double coverage that safety Brodney Pool intercepted at the Cleveland 42.
But the defense responded with a nice stand. Ndukwe sniffed out a flea-flicker and sacked Anderson on the catch-back for an eight-yard loss on first down. On third down Michael Johnson nearly picked off a screen pass with a leap that tipped the ball to the ground.
But the Browns really struggled until the half?s final drive and it wasn?t the fault of Anderson in his first start of the season. Wide receiver Braylon Edwards, shut out in the first half, dropped a first-down pass on the first series and tight end Robert Royal was wide open over the middle on third and long in the second quarter and dropped it.
Bengals linebacker Rashad Jeanty suffered an injured finger on his right hand and it was expected he wouldn't return.
After the hot start Palmer cooled off and finished the half with just 120 yards while Anderson had 130 on 8-of-16. The Browns weren?t doing much either on the ground with 34 yards on 12 carries.
PREGAME NOTES: Head coach Marvin Lewis sat down two Bengals defensive starters because of injury for Sunday's game against the Browns with safety Roy Williams (forearm) and defensive tackle Tank Johnson (foot) on the inative list.
Getting their first starts of the year are Chinedum Ndukwe for Williams and Pat Sims for Johnson.
But rookie SAM linebacker Rey Maualuga can play on his sprained knee. Position coach Jeff FitzGerald worked him out vigorously on the grass of Cleveland Browns Stadium more than two hours before the game. Maualuga looked good as FitzGerald put him through some lateral drills.
Rookie right tackle Andre Smith made his first road trip with the club as he continues rehab from a broken foot, but he was on the inactive list and is expected to be for the next several games.
In semi-surprises, Lewis also sat down cornerback David Jones and tackle-guard Scott Kooistra. Jones went full go in practice for the first time this week after breaking his foot the first week of training camp and Lewis said he was available. Although left guard Nate Livings was active in place of Kooistra, Evan Mathis got his third start since Livings hurt his knee in the opener.
Inactive for the fourth time in four weeks are rookie tight end Chase Coffman and wide receiver Jerome Simpson. Active for the first time in his career is rookie safety Tom Nelson.
Williams had a wrap around his forearm for Friday's workout, the same arm he fractured last season in the second game and missed the rest of the year. But defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer said he didn't re-break it.
With Johnson out, defensive end Frostee Rucker dressed for the first time this season and he should get plenty of work both inside and outside on passing downs.
For the Browns, three starters were out in running back Jamal Lewis, kicker Phil Dawson, and right guard Floyd Womack. They added practice squad running back Chris Jennings after putting rookie James Davis on season-ending injured reserve Saturday. Jennings, who played in the CFL last year after going to high school in Ashland, Ky., led the Browns in preseason rushing. Backup kicker Billy Cundiff had a 29-yard field goal last week in Baltimore.
The Bengals won the toss and elected to receive in their white jerseys and black pants, an outfit that came in with an 8-10 record.