Bruce Coslet turned the Cincinnati Bengals' season around. Now, he'll get a chance to turn them into contenders.
The Bengals won for the sixth time in eight games under Coslet as James Francis intercepted two passes, one for a 42-yard touchdown in a big third quarter, and Cincinnati took advantage of four Oiler turnovers for a 21-13 victory on Sunday.
Coslet, who replaced Dave Shula on Oct. 27 as interim coach, was rewarded before the game by Bengal president Mike Brown with a four-year deal and an option for a fifth if the Bengals make the playoffs in either of the final two years of the contract.
"I'm glad it's over," Coslet said. "This was a difficult thing. I appreciate having another opportunity. This is what I wanted. I'm sorry I got it under these circumstances, but there are only 30 of these jobs."
A record-low home crowd of 15,131 showed up to see the Oilers (7-8) eliminated from playoff contention. The season's final game of the year in the Astrodome broke the previous low of 15,839 set in 1964.
With the team moving to Tennessee after next season, that record may not last.
"I thought after the first half we were on our way," Oiler Coach Jeff Fisher said. "But obviously the second half kind of sums up the way we've played the last six or seven weeks."
Francis' touchdown gave the Bengals their third-quarter jump-start.
"He ran the ball so well I may move him to tight end next week," Coslet said of Francis. "He got a chance today and he took advantage of it. That play changed the momentum of the game."
The defensive effort made up for a lackluster offense. The Bengals gained only 23 yards and trailed, 6-0, at the half and didn't get into Houston's end of the field in the first half.
But in the third quarter, the Bengals (7-8) came alive, taking the lead on Jeff Blake's 14-yard touchdown pass play to James Hundon with 4:34 remaining in the quarter. Blake completed three consecutive third-down passes to David Dunn that fueled the go-ahead drive.