Ken Anderson's passing led to a 24-point Cincinnati second quarter today and the Bengals coasted over the Houston Oilers, 34-21, and into sole possession of first place in the AFC Central Division.
Anderson had three touchdown passes, two in the second quarter, as the Bengals snapped the Oilers' six-game winning streak against Cincinnati. The Oilers' Earl Campbell, never before held under 100 yards by the Bengals, had 74 yards on 14 rushes but pulled a hamstring muscle in the second quarter and was through for the day.
Anderson completed 21 of 30 passes for 281 yards. He threw touchdowns of eight yards to tight end Dan Ross and 18 yards to rookie Cris Collinsworth before the half, then teamed with Ross on a 14-yarder in the third quarter as Cincinnati moved toward a 34-7 lead.
"He's like a heat-seeking missile," Ross said of Anderson. "When you give him that much time to throw the ball, he's going to kill you."
Pete Johnson had 114 yards rushing as Cincinnati (6-3) moved a game ahead of Pittsburgh in the division. Houston is two games off the pace.
Three Bengal scores were set up by interceptions of Ken Stabler passes. John Reaves, entering in the fourth quarter when Stabler injured his left wrist, directed two Houston scoring drives.
Stabler said, "X-rays showed it's not broken . . . I'll just have to see in the next few days how much flexibility I have in it." Houston Coach Ed Biles said he kept Campbell out, although his injury appeared minor, because, "If he would have aggravated it, we might have lost him for the next four or five weeks."
For the first time this season, Houston scored on its first possession, Stabler capping a 66-yard drive with a 25-yard pass to Mike Renfro for a 7-0 lead.
But Anderson completed 11 of his first 13, and the Bengals scored four of the six times they got the ball in the first half.
Anderson was five of six passing in an 80-yard drive to a 7-7 score on fullback Johnson's four-yard plunge on the first play of the second quarter. Linebacker Glenn Cameron intercepted Stabler on the Bengal 33, and Anderson completed four of five passes on a drive culminating in the eight-yarder to Ross for a 14-7 lead with 3:02 to play in the half.
Cincinnati scored twice in the final minute of the half, on the 18-yard pass from Anderson to Collinsworth and, after an interception by Reggie Williams, on Jim Breech's 51-yard field goal, his longest in nearly a year with the Bengals.