The Cincinnati Bengals unveiled a potent rushing attack Monday night and ran the playoff hopes of the Cleveland Browns into the ground.
The Bengals rushed 37 times for 233 yards and two touchdowns, Boomer Esiason threw two touchdown passes, and Jim Breech kicked a pair of field goals to lead Cincinnati to a 34-13 win over Cleveland. The win gave the Bengals a 5-2 record and dropped Cleveland into last place in the AFC Central with a 2-5 record that leaves them three games behind Cincinnati and in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in six years."We looked like a big-time football team tonight," said Cincinnati Coach Sam Wyche. "We didn't think coming in we could run against the Browns the way we did."
Esiason completed 7 of 17 passes for 85 yards and was intercepted once, and threw scoring passes of 19 yards to Rodney Holman and 2 yards to Mike Barber. James Brooks scored on a 28-yard run and Ickey Woods, making his first appearance since suffering a knee injury since last September, closed out the scoring with a 1-yard plunge with 2:52 left. Woods carried five times for 7 yards.
Breech kicked field goals of 20 and 21 yards as the Bengals raised their record to 2-2 on their current stretch of five straight road games. Cleveland is 1-2 at home and plays Sunday at San Francisco against the undefeated 49ers.
Rookie Harold Green gained 75 yards on nine carries, Craig Taylor gained 73 yards on 14 rushes, and Brooks got 63 yards on six carries for the Bengals. Kevin Mack led Cleveland with 53 yards on 12 attempts.
"The one thing we've been talking about in the locker room is that we felt like we didn't have the running game together," Esiason said. "I told our offensive linemen at halftime that it was their game and when it is their game you can run the ball effectively.
"It should prove that we're more than one-dimensional, we don't rely on one player. When everyone gets involved and does their job we can win on the ground or in the air."
The Browns trailed 17-3 in the second quarter, but scored 10 points in the final 1:52 of the first half to apparently grab the momentum when Leroy Hoard bulled over from the 1 as time expired.
But the Browns lost the momentum somewhere between Hoard's touchdown and the start of the third quarter.
On Cleveland's first possession after halftime, Carl Zander picked off a Bernie Kosar pass and returned it to the Cleveland 38 to set up a 21-yard Breech field goal that put the Bengals up 20-13. Cleveland botched a field goal attempt with 3:36 left in the third quarter when holder Mike Pagel dropped the snap, and the Bengals ground game sprung into high gear.
Keeping the ball on the ground, the Bengals drove from their 14 to the Cleveland 4, with Taylor busting loose for a 24-yard run, Brooks running twice for 34 yards, and Green ripping off a 15-yard gain on third-and-10. Esiason then completed a pair of passes, the second going to an open Barber in the end zone for a 27-13 Bengal lead.