Rookie quarterback Boomer Esiason threw a one-yard touchdown pass to tackle Anthony Munoz with a second to play in regulation, tying the score, and Jim Breech kicked a 35-yard field goal 4 1/2 minutes into overtime today as the Cincinnati Bengals rallied for a 20-17 victory over the Cleveland Browns and kept their playoff hopes alive.
The Bengals (6-8) came from 10 points back late in the game and tied at 17 when Esiason, out of the University of Maryland, passed to Munoz, who had lined up as a tight end on the play.
"I really didn't have much of a chance to think about it," Munoz said of his first NFL touchdown. "Boomer looks at me and says, 'It's coming to you.'
"Having been an old baseball player, it looked like a hometown fast ball to me, about the size of a BB."
"That was going to be the play if we were down there in a tough, short-yardage, go-for-guts kind of a play," said Coach Sam Wyche.
The touchdown was set up when Rodney Holman blocked Steve Cox's punt with one minute left and the ball was recovered by the Bengals' John Simmons at the 28 of Cleveland (4-10). Three plays later, the Browns' Hanford Dixon was called for pass interference in the end zone; on the next play, Esiason rolled right and threw to Munoz in the end zone, with Breech's extra point tying it.
Cincinnati trails the Pittsburgh Steelers by one game in the AFC Central Division.
The Browns led, 10-7, at halftime on Paul McDonald's 21-yard touchdown pass to rookie Brian Brennan and Matt Bahr's 24-yard field goal. Breech missed from 43 yards as the first half ended and the Browns made it 17-7 when fullback Mike Pruitt, in his first game in five weeks, scored from the one early in the fourth quarter.
But Esiason, who entered the game in the third quarter after starting quarterback Turk Schonert was injured, marched the Bengals 65 yards to set up Breech for a 22-yard field goal with 5:32 left in the game.
The blocked punt put the Bengals in position to tie, and in overtime the Browns failed to move the ball after taking the kickoff. Simmons fumbled Cox's punt but recovered and raced 30 yards to the Browns' 35, with Breech winning the game seven plays later.
Esiason, who was 12 of 20 passing for 108 yards, is the team's only healthy quarterback. Schonert separated his right shoulder and is listed as doubtful for next week's game in New Orleans, while veteran Ken Anderson still is recovering from a left shoulder separation three weeks ago. He may be able to play next week.
The Bengals played most of the game without leading receiver Cris Collinsworth, who sprained his left ankle catching a pass in the first quarter. He, too, is listed as doubtful for New Orleans.
Browns tight end Ozzie Newsome caught eight passes for 62 yards, becoming the most productive receiver in club history. He has 5,519 yards receiving, surpassing the 5,508 of Ray Renfro.
McDonald and Schonert turned in strong first-half performances. McDonald completed 10 of 13 passes for 126 yards; Schonert was 11 of 14 for 95 yards and the Bengals' first touchdown, a swing pass Stanford Jennings took 15 yards.
Schonert's only mistake was an interception by Al Gross that started the Browns' first touchdown drive.