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BENGALS 23, BRONCOS 10

Bengals change stripes

CINCINNATI -- Chad got the best of Champ last night, turning the Cincinnati Bengals into an unexpected prime-time success.

Chad Johnson left cornerback Champ Bailey face-down in his tracks on a 50-yard touchdown catch that got the Bengals revved for a 23-10 victory over the Denver Broncos in their long-awaited return to "Monday Night Football."

The Bengals (2-4) hadn't played on the Monday night stage for 12 years, the longest such exile in the league. A crowd of 65,806 -- the biggest to see a Bengals game in Cincinnati -- was hoping just to avoid embarrassment.

A chatty receiver gave them so much more.

A week after one of the most embarrassing moments of his career, Johnson excelled in a matchup of Pro Bowl receiver vs. Pro Bowl cornerback.

With Bailey locked on him man-to-man, Johnson made one easy catch and a bunch of acrobatic ones that positioned Cincinnati for the upset.

Denver (5-2) had won its last four games with the NFL's best running game and a defense that ranks among the leaders in every category. The Broncos couldn't get nearly enough out of either.

Johnson did the most damage, catching seven passes for 149 yards. He had two 50-yard catches against Bailey in the first half alone, getting the downtrodden Bengals to believe they could pull it off.

A week earlier, Johnson had sent Pepto-Bismol to the Cleveland Browns' defensive backs, only to have the worst game of his career -- three drops in a 34-17 drubbing.

Rudi Johnson also had a breakout game, running for 119 yards and a 36-yard touchdown that put the Bengals up, 20-10, late in the third quarter. It was only the second time all season that an opponent scored so many points on Denver's defense.

Only the Bengals' inability to score from close range prevented it from being even more lopsided. They got inside the 20-yard line five times, but had to settle for three field goals by Shayne Graham, including a career-best 53-yarder.

Bengals defensive tackle Tony Williams dislocated and broke his left ankle late in the first quarter, a season-ending injury.

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