Browns' change pays off
QB switch shows an instant return against Bengals
CLEVELAND - Another bizarre week of twists, turns, and turbulence in Cleveland ended with more absurdity: Browns 51, Bengals 45.
Derek Anderson threw five touchdown passes, Jamal Lewis rushed for 216 yards, and the Cleveland Browns, so desperate after being embarrassed in their home opener that they traded their starting quarterback two days later, outlasted the Cincinnati Bengals and Carson Palmer yesterday.
A week that began in chaos ended in celebration.
"We live close to Cedar Point," Browns general manager Phil Savage said, referring to the popular amusement park. "It has been a roller coaster. We won a game that nobody expected us to win."
Palmer tossed a career-high six TD passes, but his final chance to rally the Bengals (1-1) ended when he was intercepted at the Browns' 27 with 21 seconds left by cornerback Leigh Bodden, who had missed practice time during the week with a groin injury.
The pick capped an eventful seven days and a historic afternoon for the Browns, who had a 300-yard passer, a 200-yard rusher, and two 100-yard receivers (Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow) for the first time since joining the NFL in 1950.
"Not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined it," Bodden said.
The teams combined for 96 points, 1,085 yards of offense, and countless missed tackles.
Even Cleveland fans, who bolted the stadium early a week ago, got to party, not long after a few of them dumped beer on Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson.
Last Sunday, Anderson had come off the bench to replace Charlie Frye during the first half when the Browns (1-1) were routed, 34-7, by the Steelers. Less than 48 hours later, Cleveland dealt Frye to the Seahawks, becoming the first team since the AFL/NFL merger to trade its season-opening quarterback before Week 2.
Cleveland racked up 554 yards of total offense, scored its most points since returning to the league in 1999, and for the time being, took some of the heat off coach Romeo Crennel, who improved to 11-23 in his third season.
"A division win, how about that?" said Crennel, playfully mocking his 2-12 record against AFC North opponents.
For once, it all fell into place for the Browns.
"I'm excited about this win," said Edwards, who had eight catches for 146 yards and two TDs. "For the first time in a long time I'm excited to go home and watch our highlights."
The clips will be dominated by Anderson, who was only expected to hold down the starting job until rookie Brady Quinn was ready. That plan, too, may be scrapped following the 24-year-old's breakout performance.
When Frye got traded, Edwards said he and a few receivers met with Anderson.
"We told him, 'We're behind you and you are here because you can play,' " Edwards said.
Anderson got off to a shaky start, going 0 for 5 on Cleveland's first two possessions. But he finished 20 of 33 for 328 yards, and the five TDs, tying a team record shared by Frank Ryan, Bill Nelsen, Brian Sipe, and Kelly Holcomb, who did it against Cincinnati in 2004.
Palmer went 33 of 50 for 401 yards, but was hurt by a few drops as the Bengals tried to come back. Out of timeouts, the Bengals got the ball back at their 9 with 1:03 left. After two completions got them to the 20, Palmer threaded a 30-yarder over the middle between two defenders to Johnson, who had 11 catches for 209 yards and two TDs.
One play later, Palmer tried to feather another pass down the sideline to Johnson, but Bodden made a pick the Browns won't soon forget.
Lewis averaged 8 yards per carry thanks to a 66-yard TD burst in the third quarter and 47-yard run in the fourth that set up Phil Dawson's 18-yard field goal that made it 51-38 with 5:44 left.