FG as time expires seals Bengals win, control of AFC North

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Disappointed by his poor performance in a
tricky wind, Carson Palmer shook the Cleveland Browns' hands after
the game and got a little uplifting advice from a quarterback who
knows what it takes to go deep into the playoffs.

In Trent Dilfer's eyes, these Bengals have it.

The Bengals compensated for Palmer's rare off day Sunday,
getting a season-high 169 yards from running back Rudi Johnson and
Shayne Graham's 37-yard field goal on the final play for a 23-20

The Bengals (10-3) maintained their two-game lead over
Pittsburgh in the AFC North and can clinch the title with a win
next Sunday in Detroit. They've won 10 games for the first time
since 1988, the last time they made it to the Super Bowl.

"I haven't had double-digit wins since my second year in
college," 10th-year offensive tackle Willie Anderson said. "It
feels good to get 10 wins. We still have to finish it off."

An offense that scored 117 points in the last three games with a
high-tech, no-huddle offense ground one out the old-fashioned way --
a very handy thing for cold playoff games.

"It was a tough game offensively," said Palmer, who had season
lows in completions and yards. "We didn't play well, I didn't play
well. You're frustrated and you're disappointed.

"I talked to Trent Dilfer after the game and he said not every
game is a blowout, not every game is pretty. On your way to the
Super Bowl, you're going to run into a bunch of games like that,
and the good teams win those games. We're a good team and we won
this game."

Dilfer led Baltimore to a Super Bowl title in 2000, when Bengals
coach Marvin Lewis was the Ravens' defensive coordinator. For the
second consecutive game, Dilfer wound up the backup to rookie
Charlie Frye, who put the Browns (4-9) in position for an
intrastate upset.

They couldn't pull it off because they couldn't stop Johnson,
who carried a season-high 30 times and averaged 5.6 yards per run.
When he got to the stadium and saw the wind, he knew it could come
down to a running back.

"It was that type of ballgame: AFC North, cold weather and a
lot at stake," he said.

Chad Johnson had season lows with two catches for 22 yards, but
drew interference and illegal contact penalties on cornerback Leigh
Bodden during the Bengals' 43-yard drive to the winning kick.
Palmer was 13-of-27 for 93 yards with one touchdown, one
interception and a season-low passer rating of 53.5.

In only his second NFL start, Frye kept the Browns in the game.
He had only one costly mistake: a pass intercepted by Deltha
O'Neal, setting up Cincinnati's second touchdown.

Gusts turned the stadium into a wind tunnel, made the goalposts
gyrate and provided another concern for the rookie. He handled it
much better than the Bengals' Heisman Trophy passer from Southern

Frye grew up in northern Ohio and was a third-round draft pick
out of Akron, which is a snowplow drive from Cleveland.

"He's very confident," said Steve Heiden, who caught a
touchdown pass. "He's mature for his years. He's poised, he's
confident. He was very good."

Wearing a glove on his passing hand to help him grip the ball,
Frye was on the mark in a low-risk passing attack of short passes
and rollouts to avoid the rush. He ran 3 yards on a rollout to
score on the Browns' first possession, raising the ball
triumphantly with his right arm as he crossed the goal line.

"I felt much more comfortable than last week," Frye said.

Frye's 2-yard touchdown pass to Heiden put the Browns up 14-7
and sent notice this was going to be a typical Browns-Bengals game,
unpredictable and up for grabs. He finished 16-of-24 for 138 yards
with a touchdown and his first interception as a starter.

"The young kid, Charlie, did a pretty decent job overall,"
coach Romeo Crennel said. "He handled himself well in situations
where he was in trouble. He was able to get out of trouble and
maintain his cool."
Game notes
Bengals RB Chris Perry sprained his left ankle in the first
quarter and was on crutches after the game. It's not known how long
he'll be sidelined. ... O'Neal's nine interceptions lead the NFL
and match Ken Riley's club record from 1976. ... Bengals LB Odell
Thurman was benched for the first few plays for violating an
undisclosed team rule. ... Palmer took the blame for letting the
clock run down to 1 second before calling time out to set up
Graham's winning kick. "We were all calling timeout," Palmer
said. "I'm not sure what happened." ... The Browns were swept by
the Bengals for the first time since 1999. Cleveland leads the
series overall 33-32.


ESPN Fan Shop Powered By

  • Nike Men's Home Game Jersey Cleveland Browns Joe Thomas #73Shop

  • Nike Toddler Home Game Jersey Cincinnati Bengals A.J. Green #18Shop

NFL News