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September 29, 2023

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Browns outlast Bengals

CLEVELAND – Another bizarre week of twists, turns and turbulence in Cleveland ended with more absurdity: Browns 51, Bengals 45.

Go figure.

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 yesterday.

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.

Who could?

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.

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