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Points, Counterpoints

Cincinnati Outlasts Cleveland in 2nd-Highest Scoring Game in League History: Bengals 58, Browns 48

By Joe Kay
Associated Press
Monday, November 29, 2004; Page D11

CINCINNATI, Nov. 28 -- Kelly Holcomb threw for 413 yards and five touchdowns -- and lost.

Strange? Not as strange as those other numbers glowing on the scoreboard as Holcomb trudged off the field with his head down and more misery ahead.

"We kept putting them away, and they kept coming back," said Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer, who threw a career-high four touchdown passes. (David Kohl -- AP)

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Cincinnati 58, Cleveland 48.

The intrastate rivals played the wildest game in their history Sunday, one that defied logic and wound up as the second-highest scoring game in NFL history.

"You just can't explain the second half, and there's no need to try to," Bengals linebacker Brian Simmons said. "It was a great game for the fans, I guess."

"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 Redskins' 72-41 victory over the 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 this one to overtime, as well. Deltha O'Neal's interception and 31-yard return for a touchdown finally decided it 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. "We kept expecting them to slacken up, but they never did."

No one expected anything like it.

The Browns' defense has been the only dependable thing during their losing streak, now up to five. The Bengals (4-5) have been watching their young defense grow up fast, allowing only two touchdowns in the three previous games.

On Sunday, it looked like they were playing two-hand touch. Two previously struggling offenses combined for 49 first downs and 966 yards, gaudy numbers set up by innumerable missed tackles and broken coverages.

The first five possessions of the second half resulted in touchdowns, many of them as easy as they get because of defensive breakdowns.

"It is what it is," Browns defensive back Robert Griffith said glumly. "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."

The Browns put up their most points since a 51-0 victory over Pittsburgh in the 1989 opener. This one surely will turn up the heat on Coach Butch Davis, who has been assured of finishing the season and nothing more.

"I'd be lying if I didn't tell you it was demoralizing," Davis said. "There's not a lot of joy in losing."

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