CLEVELAND (AP)—Another bizarre week of twists, turns and turbulence in Cleveland ended with more absurdity: Browns 51, Bengals 45.
Derek Anderson threw five touchdown passes, Jamal Lewis rushed for 216 yards and the Cleveland Browns, so desperate after being embarrassed in their home opener that they traded their starting quarterback two days later, outlasted the Cincinnati Bengals and Carson Palmer 51-45 on Sunday.
A week that began in chaos ended in celebration.
“We live close to Cedar Point,” Browns general manager Phil Savage said, referring to the popular amusement park. “It has been a rollercoaster. We won a game that nobody expected us to win.”
Palmer tossed a career-high six TDs, but his final chance to rally the Bengals (1-1) ended when he was intercepted at the Browns’ 27 with 21 seconds left by cornerback Leigh Bodden, who had missed practice time this week with a groin injury.
The pick capped an eventual seven days and an historic afternoon for the Browns, who had a 300-yard passer, a 200-yard rusher and two 100-yard receivers (Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow) for the first time since joining the NFL in 1950.
“Not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined it,” Bodden said.
The teams combined for 96 points, 1,085 yards of offense and countless missed tackles.
Even Cleveland fans, who bolted the stadium early a week ago, got a chance to party, not long after a few of them dumped beer on Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson.
Last Sunday, Anderson had come off the bench to replace Charlie Frye during the first half when the Browns (1-1) were routed 34-7 by the Steelers. Less than 48 hours later, Cleveland dealt Frye to the Seattle Seahawks, becoming the first team since the AFL/NFL merger to trade its season-opening quarterback before Week 2.
Cleveland racked up 554 yards of total offense, scored its most points since returning to the league in 1999, and for the time being, took some of the heat off coach Romeo Crennel, who improved to 11-23 in his third season.
“A division win, how about that?” said Crennel, playfully mocking his 2-12 record against AFC North opponents.
For once, it all fell into place for the Browns.
“I’m excited about this win,” said Edwards, who had eight catches for 146 yards and two TDs. “For the first time in a long time I’m excited to go home and watch our highlights.”
The clips will be dominated by Anderson, who was only expected to hold down the starting job until rookie Brady Quinn was ready. That plan, too, may be scrapped following the 24-year-old’s breakout performance.
When Frye got traded, Edwards said he a few receivers met with Anderson.
“We told him, ‘We’re behind you and you are here because you can play,”’ Edwards said. “He was commanding in the huddle. This is the first time he was the guy. He came in and pulled it all together.”
Anderson got off to a shaky start, going 0-for-5 on Cleveland’s first two possessions. But the big-armed QB from Oregon State finished 20-of-33 for 328 yards and the five TDs, tying a team record shared by Frank Ryan, Bill Nelsen, Brian Sipe and Kelly Holcomb.
A former sixth-round draft pick, Anderson has always had the physical gifts but has been plagued by bad decision-making. This time, he was strong and smart.
“I wouldn’t say I was nervous,” Anderson said of his fourth career start. “I was happy with the way things turned out.”
It was just the third time in NFL history that two QBs threw five TD passes in the same game. Oakland’s Tom Flores (6) and Houston’s George Blanda (5) both did it on Dec. 22, 1963, and Billy Kilmer of New Orleans (6) and Charley Johnson of St. Louis (6) also did it Nov, 5, 1969.
Joe Jurevicius caught two TD passes and Kellen Winslow had one for the Browns, who finally got to show off their new offense under first-year coordinator Rob Chudzinski.
Palmer went 33-of-50 for 401 yards, but was hurt by a few drops as the Bengals tried to come back.
Out of timeouts, the Bengals got the ball at their 9 back with 1:03 left. After two completions got them to the 20, Anderson threaded a 30-yarder over the middle between two defenders to Johnson, who had 11 catches for 209 yards and two TDs.
One play later, Palmer tried to feather another pass down the sideline to Johnson, but Bodden made a pick the Browns won’t soon forget.
The Bengals came in feeling good about themselves following a Monday night win over the Baltimore Ravens. Now, they have some doubts, especially about an already suspect defense.
“I don’t think anybody expected this game to shake out like this,” Palmer said. “If anything, it’s a good reminder for us that it doesn’t matter who you play. This is one of the tougher losses. I thought we had this win. I feel like I’m mourning over a loss. I’m just going to try and shake it off.”
Lewis averaged 7.7 yards per carry thanks to a 66-yard TD burst in the third quarter and 47-yard run in the fourth that set up Phil Dawson’s 18-yard field goal that put the Browns up 51-38 with 5:44 left.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to break out like that,” Lewis said.
Chad Johnson’s second TD catch pulled the Bengals within 34-31 in the third, and as the NFL’s most eccentric showman promised, he jumped headfirst into the Dawg Pound, where he was baptized in a shower of beer by Cleveland’s rowdiest fans.
“That was cool,” Johnson said. “It was fun and it was cold. I think I gave the fans their money’s worth.”
Chad Johnson (7,229 yards) moved past Isaac Curtis (7,101) for the most receiving yards in Bengals history. … Cleveland’s offensive line did not give up a sack after allowing six against the Steelers. … Cincinnati’s Rudi Johnson had 118 yards on 23 carries. … Anderson doubled his career TD total. He threw five last season.