CINCINNATI (AP) -- Chad Johnson had nothing to celebrate. The
Bengals missed out on that long-awaited winning record. The
playoffs vanished, too.
One last time, can you say Bungles?
Instead, the Baltimore Ravens clinched the AFC North title
several hours before playing Pittsburgh in the final regular-season
A renaissance season ended in a gut-wrenching disappointment for
the Bengals (8-8), who felt the pressure and reverted to form in
their biggest game in 13 years.
"That's the hardest part," Pro Bowl offensive tackle Willie
Anderson said. "Knowing what's on the line, we've got to find a
way to win these games and not come out and play scared and timid.
We did it all year."
With a chance to stay in contention for at least a few more
hours and clinch their first winning record since 1990, the Bengals
felt the enormity of the moment and froze up.
The Bengals were in control of the division at 8-6 with two
games left, but lost them both.
"We pressed," coach Marvin Lewis said. "That's a growth that
we have to go through. Don't get frustrated about this and that,
just keep playing.
"This was a good year. It wasn't a great year. We've got more
Instead of taking advantage of the down-and-out Browns (5-11),
the Bengals were uptight and out of sync. A rookie running back
with a lot to prove became the undoing of a team with everything on
Suggs, a fourth-round draft pick getting a chance during William
Green's suspension, had a 78-yard touchdown run in the first half
and a 25-yard run that put the Browns ahead to stay with 7:54 left.
"Teams passed on me 114 times," said Suggs, the 115th overall
pick. "I've got to prove I'm better than a fourth-round pick, the
11th back taken. I'll carry that with me the rest of my career. On
draft day, I was the most disappointed player out there."
Cleveland's makeshift offensive line punched big holes in the
Bengals' defense. The Browns, who lost to Baltimore 35-0 last week,
rushed for a season-high 178 yards in the first half alone.
"We talked about these situations all year long, about guys
being ready to play in this type of game," Bengals linebacker
Kevin Hardy said. "Everybody knew the magnitude of today."
After an opening drive that led to Rudi Johnson's 5-yard
touchdown run, the Bengals' offense froze up and fumbled around.
Trailing 13-7 late in the half, the Bengals put together a drive
reminiscent of their sorry past. They moved to the Cleveland 3-yard
line despite three penalties on receiver Chad Johnson -- two for
pass interference, one for a false start.
With 10 seconds left, the ball on the 6 and the Bengals out of
timeouts, Kitna dropped to pass, held the ball too long, then took
off and got sacked as the clock ran out and boos filled the
"Just a poor decision by me at the end," said Kitna, who had
avoided them for most of the season. "Everything is happening so
fast. On that play, it was just a mental error."
The Browns then reverted to form, failing to get a first down on
three third-quarter possessions. Rudi Johnson's 2-yard run put the
Bengals ahead 14-13 with 12:15 left.
Suggs then broke a 25-yard touchdown run, doing a 360-degree
spin to avoid Kevin Kaesviharn, for a 19-14 lead. Brett Conway's
18-yard field goal, his third of the game, put the Browns up by
eight points with 1:13 to go.
Kitna overthrew tight end Matt Schobel for the clinching
interception. Kitna was 23-of-35 for 175 yards.
Chad Johnson, who had promised fans a memorable, fine-fetching
touchdown celebration, failed to get into the end zone and had to
leave in the third quarter to get intravenous fluids because his
legs were cramping.
"It means a lot to be 8-8 and even have a chance to taste the
playoffs," he said.
Closer, but not there yet.
Bengals RB Corey Dillon threw his helmet, shoulder pads and
cleats into the stands as he left the field, then said goodbye to
the media. Dillon, who was replaced by Rudi Johnson, expects to be
released in the offseason. ... Couch, who was 9-of-18 for 115
yards, said he wants to return for the final year on his contract.
... Suggs' 186 yards were the most by a Browns rusher this season
and eclipsed Green's high of 178 yards last year. His 78-yard TD
run was the longest against the Bengals since Bo Jackson had an
88-yard touchdown run for the Raiders in 1990.
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The Patriots lead the Broncos by a touchdown at the half, but Dont'a Hightower left late in the second quarter with a knee injury.
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Russell Wilson threw for 345 yards and five touchdowns, while Markus Wheaton caught nine balls for 201 yards in the Seahawks' thrilling 39-30 victory over the Steelers.