Kelly Holcomb threw for 400 yards and five touchdowns -- and lost.
Strange? Not as strange as those other numbers glowing on the scoreboard as Holcomb trudged off the field.
Cincinnati 58, Cleveland 48.
The intrastate rivals played the wildest game in their history Sunday, one that defied logic and became the second-highest-scoring game in NFL history.
“It was crazy,” said the Bengals’ Rudi Johnson, who ran for 202 yards and two touchdowns. “Just crazy.”
The 106 combined points were the second-most in an NFL game, trailing only the Washington Redskins’ 72-41 victory over the New York Giants on Nov. 27, 1966. Until Sunday, the most points in a game since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 was 99 -- Seattle beat Kansas City, 51-48, in overtime on Nov. 27, 1983.
In the end, the Browns (3-8) had the ball and a chance to send the game into overtime, but Deltha O’Neal’s interception and 31-yard return for a touchdown helped secure the victory for the Bengals with 1 minute 43 seconds left.
“We kept putting them away, and they kept coming back,” said Cincinnati’s Carson Palmer, who threw a career-high four touchdown passes and also three interceptions. “We kept expecting them to slacken up, but they never did.”
The Browns’ defense has been the only dependable thing during their losing streak, now up to five. The Bengals (5-6) have been watching their young defense grow up fast, giving up only two touchdowns in the three previous games.
On Sunday, it looked as if they were playing two-hand touch. Two previously struggling offenses combined for 49 first downs and 966 yards.
The first five possessions of the second half resulted in touchdowns, many of them because of defensive breakdowns.
“It is what it is,” Brown defensive back Robert Griffith said. “We gave up too many big plays -- deep balls, long runs. It’s just frustrating. When it rains it pours, and right now we’ve got to turn off the sprinkler.”
Holcomb, who took the Browns to the playoffs under Coach Butch Davis in 2002, threw four touchdown passes in the second half, including a one-yard toss to Steve Heiden that put Cleveland ahead, 48-44, with 10:22 to play, but Holcomb knew it wouldn’t be enough. “The way the game was going, I felt like we needed to score two more times,” he said.
Bengal Coach Marvin Lewis had screamed at his team after a loss to Pittsburgh last week, turning this game into a test of his credibility.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a situation where the defense had a game like that, but we’ll take it,” said Lewis, whose defense in Baltimore gave up 165 points in the 2000 regular season.
Palmer, who completed 22 of 29 passes for 251 yards, led the Bengals to a 27-13 lead at halftime -- more points than they had scored in any game all season.