Peter Warrick breaks loose on one of his two touchdowns. (Bengals photo)
In conjunction with our recent fan poll, we are taking a look back at the most memorable games of the Marvin Lewis era. Next up (11/16/03): Peter Warrick scores on two long fourth-quarter plays and the Bengals topple the previously undefeated 9-0 Kansas City Chiefs before a boisterous Paul Brown Stadium crowd. Here is a reprint of the game summary as written by bengals.com's Geoff Hobson.
Updated: 8:40 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Marvin Lewis likes to show his team clips from a movie the night before a game, so why not pull a clip from "Ali" when Muhammad Ali stunned Sonny Liston for the heavyweight championship of the world?
"Marvin told us this fight started off with speed, with Ali getting to him, but then Ali went blind for a whole round," said right tackle Willie Anderson, an hour after the Bengals had pulled their own shocking upset Sunday by hauling down the NFL's lone unbeaten team in a 24-19 win over the Chiefs.
"But then he came back; he kept hammering away," Anderson said. "That's what (Lewis) said; just keep hammering away. Keep hitting them with speed. Keep playing fast, keep hammering away, they'll fall."
The Bengals floored the big-play Chiefs with three roundhouse blows of their own in the fourth quarter. After Peter Warrick's 68-yard punt return for a touchdown, he counterpunched the Chiefs' first touchdown on the longest catch of his career that turned into a 77-yard touchdown with 6:05 left. When Kansas City crawled back to 24-19 with 3:19 left, running back Rudi Johnson, whose middle name is actually Ali, buckled the Chiefs on a 54-yard run that helped keep the ball from the NFL's most prolific offense one final time.
And when the team looked up into the stands of Paul Brown Stadium during the last minute, the rock-and-roll sellout crowd saluted Baltimore's loss in Miami and the 5-5 Bengals arrival in first place in November for the first time since that last playoff run in 1990.
But middle linebacker Kevin Hardy, in his first year as a Bengal, just knows the Chiefs are now 9-1 when asked the magnitude of the victory for the franchise.
"I think it's the biggest win in the NFL this year," Hardy said. "Anytime a team is undefeated for nine weeks, they're on top and we were able to come up with a victory. The first-place Bengals in November. That's huge."
Its 11 days before Thanksgiving and the Bengals are co-leaders in the North. But they also lead the tiebreaker because they beat the Ravens head-to-head.
"It was loud out there, the crowd was great," Anderson said. "It was like The Jungle back in the '80s. We've seen those clips. We've heard what that was like."
After staring down the NFL's most opportunistic defense with his fourth game in the last seven without an interception, Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna declared, "The Jungle is back. They were as much a part of this win today as everything that happened on the field."
Kitna pumped two more touchdown passes on 19-of-32 passing for 233 yards to give him 11 touchdowns and one interception in the Bengals' five wins, and Rudi Johnson fueled the crowd with "Rudi, Rudi" on 165 yards in 22 carries that now give him an average of 129 yards in his four starts.
The locker room was just as emotional as the stands, where various media outlets caught a choked-up Lewis telling the team he would give a game ball to Bengals president Mike Brown. Meanwhile, a shovel with an orange handle and the words "PBS Groundskeeping" taped to it leaned against Anderson's locker.
"Marvin talked on Wednesday about just keep shoveling. Just keep shoveling the dirt. Don't look up," Anderson said. "Just keeping digging the dirt. Just keep working. So I went and got that shovel this morning."
One of the more relieved guys in the building had to be wide receiver Chad Johnson, whose teammates seemed to be more upset with his Ali guarantee of a victory a week before the game than the Chiefs.
"No more of that," said the apologetic Johnson, who finished with 74 yards on seven catches. "But the guys had my back. They sure did."
Running back Corey Dillon, who played but didn't start, didn't return after rushing for 21 yards on six carries in the first half, but he, too, felt the pull of The Jungle. It was the first time Dillon played at PBS since angering fans last month saying he wouldn't mind a trade.
"I thought some beer bottles might be coming," Dillon joked. "But I showed them that I care about them and I love them. What was said is what was said, and I apologize for it."
The Chiefs had no apologies, but they weren't pleased with themselves or Johnson.
"The worst thing about it is to have a guy come out and shoot his mouth about what they're going to do," said cornerback Eric Warfield. "And you know what? They stepped up and played an all-around game. They outplayed us every step of the game. They got a special-teams touchdown, they had big plays on defense ... and the offense played well. I take our hats off to them. He made a statement, and they stood up to it."
The Bengals now embark on a three-game road trip that takes them to San Diego, Pittsburgh and Baltimore.
But for just one night, Lewis wants his team to savor what it has done here during the bye, which is win four straight games at a suddenly cozy home field against three division leaders (the Ravens, Seahawks and Chiefs), in preventing Kansas City from becoming the ninth team to ever go 10-0, and in joining the land of the living.
"It gives us legitimacy for everything," Lewis said. "We have now played against three division leaders, and we have beaten them. That's important. That we can play football like the rest of them. From the time that we started, we said we were going to bring the NFL back. And that was NFL football out there today. It was NFL atmosphere. It was fun. Everybody had fun. When you come to the stadium, you ought to be here for fun, and that is what we were having."
Fun was watching Warrick pop his first punt for a touchdown in nearly three years, a 68-yard surge up the middle with 12:47 left in the game to extend the Bengals lead to 17-6.
"I'm about to seal this one with a kiss," is what Warrick thought as he dropped back to his 35. "There's Dante Hall and there's P-Dub."
Fun? Warrick finished with a career-high 114 receiving yards on six catches and said it was the most fun he's had in a game since he had a punt return and two catches for a touchdown in the 1999 national championship game for Florida State.
Fun is turning the tables on the best special teams in the league. The Chiefs' Dante Hall, the league's most feared returner who has been averaging two first downs per his punt returns that include two touchdowns, didn't have one longer than 13 yards after the middle of the first quarter. Hall has also returned two kicks this season for scores, but he only averaged 16.8 yards on four shots Sunday and got so frustrated after bobbling a kickoff in the fourth quarter for a yard gain that he kicked the ball and was called for delay of game.
"They did a great job of closing the gaps," Hall said. "Once I was about to break, they did a great job of corralling to the ball. We had a couple of opportunities – plenty of opportunities – all day."
The Chiefs came into the game leading the NFL in scoring touchdowns and points, but fun for the Bengals was watching their much maligned defense hold Kansas City without a touchdown for the game's first 53 minutes and stuff running back Priest Holmes on 62 yards on 16 carries.
It was the first time this season that Holmes, who has more rushing yards than anyone in the NFL the past three years, finished with less than 100 yards combined running and passing. And he took out his frustration on the Bengals.
"I've never lost to them, so for me to lose now, it definitely tears my heart apart," said Holmes while saying he has no respect for the Cincinnati organization. "That's why I can say I do respect the players and the coach. But as far as the organization, I don't."
After the Chiefs crawled to 17-12 on a microwave five-play drive for their first touchdown of the game on quarterback Trent Green's 12-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tony Gonzalez with 6:24 left in the game, Kitna went for the kill on the first snap after the score.
He hit Warrick down the middle of the field with an over-the-shoulder 77-yard bomb, the last 25 yards coming when Warrick bolted out of Warfield's grasp.
Then after the Chiefs answered yet again to cut it to 24-19 on Green's three-yard pass to tight end Jason Dunn with 3:19 left in the game, Rudi Johnson popped his 54-yarder behind right guard Mike Goff and Anderson, and spun away from a linebacker who tried to tackle him high.
The Bengals stuffed the highest-scoring team in the NFL by not allowing the Chiefs to convert a third down until 29 seconds left in the half and holding Holmes to 15 yards on six carries while Kansas City ran just 23 plays to the Bengals' 40 and had the ball less than 10 minutes while the Bengals had it for 20:05.
Green finished 28-of-42 for 313 yards and barely outrated Kitna, 104.6-102.7.
Bengals miss early opportunity
The first half had all the recipe for an upset, but the Bengals couldn't come up with a big play and should have had a 6-0 lead with 57 seconds left in the half when kicker Shayne Graham lined up for a 48-yard field goal. The Bengals were late running man on to the field for the attempt, but they didn't call a timeout and Graham had to hurry, and his foot hit the ball when the play clock hit 0. He hooked it for his first miss inside 54 yards this season.
That allowed the Chiefs to spread out their offense and move the ball on the Bengals for the first time with Kansas City kicker Morten Andersen hitting a 37-yarder on the last play of the half to tie it.
Graham had given the Bengals a 3-0 lead on his 27-yard field goal with 6:18 left. Kitna concentrated on hitting Chad Johnson (four catches, 50 yards in the first half) underneath Kansas City's two-deep zone for 27 yards and Rudi Johnson made safety Jerome Woods and cornerback Dexter McCleon miss on a 38-yard run that put the ball on the Chiefs 11.
From the Chiefs 11, Dillon muscled for two, but Kitna could find no passing lanes and had to settle for Graham's 27-yarder.
That turned out to be Dillon's sixth and last carry of the day, but he seemed remarkably upbeat after missing two of the last three games.
"I feel great. I am through thinking about cutting and taking hits," Dillon said. "Now I have to get my timing down with the offensive line and go after it."
Meanwhile, the Bengals defense made things miserable for Green in his 74-yard half on 8-of-15 passing. On the first play after the field goal, strong safety Rogers Beckett and outside linebacker Adrian Ross detonated Green for a nine-yard sack, and the Bengals were off on another 11-play drive.
Kitna started it by dropping a 23-yard pass to Chad Johnson in back of Chiefs linebacker Shawn Barber, Rudi Johnson bulled out of left guard for 14, and Warrick scrambled for 15 yards on a short route.
But the Bengals short-circuited from the Chiefs 27, where Kitna and Rudi Johnson didn't have good timing on a draw play and it lost three yards to lead to Graham's miss.
This half truly belonged to the defense. Hall had four chances to bury the Bengals on four punts in the game's first 18 minutes, but Cincinnati hurt itself more than Hall.
Hall did reel off returns of 26 and 28 yards on the first two, but the hearty defense stiffened with two three-and-outs. Then, Bengals punter Kyle Richardson nudged one that Hall couldn't deal with as it stopped at the Chiefs 8. But running back Brandon Bennett was called for holding and Richardson had to punt again and the Bengals lost 28 yards on the penalty when Hall brought the re-punt out to his own 36.
But cornerback Artrell Hawkins, starting in place of the injured Jeff Burris, made a good play on third down, batting away Green's long rainbow pass at the Bengals 10 intended for wide receiver Eddie Kennison.
Then Hall fumbled the next punt at his own 46, but Bengals rookie linebacker Khalid Abdullah was called for getting downfield too early, and when Richardson had to punt again from his own end zone, linebacker Monty Beisel partially blocked it and the ball rolled to the Bengals 42, a loss of 16 yards in field position because of the penalty.
But the defense came up big again with safety Mark Roman knocking away Green's third-down pass for one of the potent Chiefs three three-and-outs in the half.
Dillon, who has missed two of the last three games with a nagging groin injury, tested it out during pregame and gave the thumbs-up to the medical staff after doing some cuts for about 40 yards. It's believed to be the first game he hasn't started while dressed since the ninth game of his rookie season in 1997.
Inactive for the Bengals Sunday were wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, guard Matt O'Dwyer, tight end Reggie Kelly, cornerback Jeff Burris, outside linebacker LaDairis Jackson, offensive lineman Victor Leyva, and defensive end Elton Patterson. Shane Matthews is the third quarterback. Houshmandzadeh, who has yet to dress this season, appears to be recovering physically. But the Bengals may have wanted to stick with rookie receiver Kevin Walter against the Chiefs because of his special teams production.