Trying to become the first team to go 10-0 since the 1998 Denver Broncos, the less-than-perfect Chiefs unraveled against the Bengals, who got touchdowns from Warrick on a punt return and long pass play to make Johnson's guarantee come true. The 1972 Miami Dolphins are the only team in NFL history to finish a season unbeaten and untied (17-0).
"That's having my back," said Johnson, who apologized to some of the Chiefs on the field for his guarantee. "They didn't leave me hanging in the wind."
Said Chief cornerback Eric Warfield: "The worst thing is to have a guy come out and shoot his mouth making a statement, and they stood up to it. This is a good team, but we feel like we shouldn't have lost."
Cincinnati improved to 5-5 and moved into a tie for first place with Baltimore in the AFC North. The Bengals haven't been in contention this late in a season since 1990, the last time they had a winning record.
Warrick, a top draft pick who symbolized their 12 seasons of misery, pulled off the plays that got them out of the malaise.
Johnson was in the trainer's room getting intravenous fluids for cramps when Warrick made one cut and headed upfield on a 68-yard punt return for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Warrick hoisted the ball in celebration when he reached the 20-yard line.
"It was sickening," said Chief returner Dante Hall, who has run back four kicks for touchdowns this season. "I wanted to be in his shoes."
Said Warrick, who last returned a punt for a touchdown in his rookie season in 2000: "Dante Hall is a great player, but today was my day to shine,"
Johnson was back in time to see the clinching score six minutes later. Warrick grabbed a long pass from Jon Kitna inthe middle of the field, made a 360-degree spin to shake Warfield at the Chief 44-yard line and took it the rest of the way for a 77-yard score.
On the Chief sideline, players dropped their heads, turned their backs and blamed themselves.
"It would have been much worse if they had beaten us at our best," Hall said. "But we didn't play well. It's like they say: 'On any given Sunday.' "
Rudi Johnson ran for 165 yards and Kitna threw two touchdown passes for Cincinnati. But it was the Bengals' inspired defense that made the difference, stuffing one of the NFL's most dangerous teams until it was too late. Kansas City had good field position most of the game, but didn't start moving until after Warrick gave the Bengals a 17-6 lead with his punt return with 12:47 left in the game.
Trent Green threw two touchdown passes to bring the Chiefs close -- the last one to Jason Dunn on a three-yard play with 3:19 to go. Kansas City, however, never got the ball back.