CLEVELAND - After the most prolific game ever by a Bengals quarterback and Chad Johnson has the third best day ever by a Bengals wide receiver, Carson Palmer is left to explain why his six touchdown passes and 401 yards passing aren't enough in the Browns' chaotic 51-45 victory today. It's a stunning loss for the Bengals, six days removed from a thrilling Opening Day win over Super Bowl contender Baltimore on Monday Night Football at Paul Brown Stadium. The Browns had won just one division game in the past two seasons, had scored 44 points in the previous five games combined, and racked up the fifth most yards ever against the Bengals with 554 as quarterback Derek Anderson win his first game in his fourth NFL start hitting 20 of 28 passes for 328 yards. Running back Jamal Lewis becomes the fifth back to rush for 200 yards against the Bengals by gouging them for 215 on 28 carries, tying him with Terrell Davis for second-most ever against the Bengals.
But the Bengals are more than ready for the shootout. Palmer becomes the first Bengals quarterback since Boomer Esiason 18 years ago to throw for five touchdown passes and Palmer is the first NFL quarterback to throw six in a game since Peyton Manning in 2004 when he cut the Browns' lead to 51-45 with 3:39 left on a seven-yard post pattern for wide receiver Glenn Holt's first NFL touchdown catch. Plus, running back Rudi Johnson bulls for 118 yards on 23 carries, his last 100-yard game and fifth against Cleveland. Palmer's bid to tie the NFL record of seven TDs falls 27 yards shy, which is where cornerback Leigh Bodden intercepts his sideline pass to Johnson with 21 seconds left. It's the only thing he doesn't catch. He finishes with 11 scintillating catches for 209 yards, none better than the leaping, desperate 30-yard catch at midfield with 33 seconds left that keeps the Bengals breathing. "When Chad made that catch," says wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, "I thought we were going to win."
"I gave them their money's worth," Johnson says after out-fighting Bodden for a 14-yard touchdown catch over the middle that cuts the Browns lead to 34-31 on another icy third-and-long catch. He says he doesn't mind the beer poured on his back and he didn't see the fan that flipped him off.