James Brooks rushed for a club-record 201 yards as the Cincinnati Bengals defeated the Houston Oilers, 40-20, Sunday to knock them out of first place in the AFC Central Division.
Brooks, who had 20 carries, scored on a 56-yard run and also set up two touchdowns with runs of 40 and 45 yards, carrying the Bengals to a victory that kept them in the playoff chase.
Houston and Cincinnati are tied for second in the AFC Central at 8-7, one game behind Pittsburgh.
The Steelers (9-6) beat Cleveland, 35-0, Sunday and finish the regular season next Sunday night against the Oilers in the Astrodome.
The Bengals finish at home against Cleveland.
Brooks’ running provided almost all of the Bengals’ first-half offense, and his repeated bursts on sweeps and trap plays helped Cincinnati generate four second-half touchdowns to put the game out of reach.
“Everybody was saying that defense is so tough that you can’t run against them, and I said, ‘We’ll see,’ ” Brooks said. “The last time we played them I was hurt (with a sore neck). I redeemed myself and showed them I can still run against them any time.”
Now the Oilers are on the ropes.
Quarterback Warren Moon dislocated the thumb on his throwing hand in the last two minutes of the game and is expected to be sidelined for at least three weeks.
“It’s devastating,” said Moon, who leads the NFL in passing yards (4,689) and touchdown passes (33). “You work so hard to get to this point. We’ve been close so many times. It’s frustrating.”
Moon, coming off a 527-yard passing performance against Kansas City, was held to 288 yards, completing 25 of 48 with one interception. It was only the sixth time in 15 games this season that he’s been held under 300 yards.
Moon passed for 369 yards and a career-high five touchdowns in the teams’ earlier meeting, won by Houston, 48-17, in the Astrodome.
This time, Boomer Esiason clinched the victory for the Bengals with two touchdown passes to Eric Kattus in the final six minutes. Esiason completed 11 of 21 passes for 184 yards, but Brooks did the damage.
Brooks broke his own club record of 163 yards, set against New England in 1986. His 15th 100-yard game moved him one ahead of Pete Johnson for another club record.
Houston scored in the first half on field goals of 29 and 36 yards by Teddy Garcia and on Moon’s 21-yard touchdown pass to Haywood Jeffires. The Oilers could have had more--a Houston fumble recovery was nullified by an offsides penalty--and had to settle for a field goal after driving to a first and goal at the four-yard line.
Brooks provided almost all of the Bengals’ first-half offense. He broke a 45-yard run to set up the first of Ickey Woods’ two one-yard touchdown runs and sprinted 56 yards untouched on a trap play to tie the game, 13-13, with 1:55 left in the half. Those two runs were the longest allowed by the Oilers this season.
Brooks accounted for 109 of the Bengals’ 177 first-half yards, and he wasn’t finished.
After Moon ran one yard for a go-ahead touchdown early in the third quarter, Brooks broke off a 40-yard run to set up Stanford Jennings’ one-yard touchdown run.
Cincinnati drove 63 yards to the go-ahead touchdown midway through the third quarter, with Brooks contributing a 15-yard run. Woods’ second short scoring run put the Bengals ahead, 27-20, with 1:46 left in the quarter.
The game was played with temperatures in the 20s.