Boomer Esiason threw three touchdown passes and James Griffin returned an interception 24 yards for a touchdown today to lead the Cincinnati Bengals to a 35-30 victory over the New York Giants and Phil Simms, who set a club record with 513 passing yards.
Simms completed 40 of 62 passes for the second-highest yardage total in NFL history against Cincinnati's beleaguered defense, but his third-quarter interception and fumble handed the Bengals a pair of easy touchdowns and the win.
"It doesn't mean much," Simms said of his record. "When we look at the game (films) tomorrow, all I'll see is what I screwed up. We gave away too many opportunities to win this game."
The Bengals (2-4) stunned the NFL's top-ranked defense by rolling off 21 points to start the game behind the precise passing of Esiason, formerly of the University of Maryland.
But the Giants (3-3) used a pair of field goals by Jess Atkinson and a touchdown by the rookie kicker from Maryland on a fake field-goal try to cut the lead to 21-20 late in the third quarter.
That's when Simms committed the two deciding mistakes against a Bengals defense ranked third-worst in the league. After Griffin returned the interception, Simms fumbled the ball to the Bengals on the Giants' one-yard line two plays later. The Bengals also sacked Simms seven times for 70 yards in losses.
"It wasn't the prettiest victory, but it was one of two, so it was satisfying," Bengals Coach Sam Wyche said. "Our defense gets stars on their lockers this week. They made the plays that won the game."
Simms' 513 yards passing trails only Norm Van Brocklin's 554-yard effort for Los Angeles in 1951.The total broke Y.A. Tittle's Giants club record of 505, set in 1962, and followed a 432-yard effort by Simms in a loss last Sunday to Dallas.
After Griffin's touchdown, Simms was hit by Eddie Edwards on a pass attempt and fumbled, with linebacker Reggie Williams recovering at the one-yard line.
After a four-yard loss, Esiason hit tight end Rodney Holman with his third touchdown pass of the game for a comfortable 35-20 advantage.
Simms hit George Adams with a 24-yard scoring pass with 1:28 to play, but the Bengals recovered an onside kick to protect the victory.
Esiason went to the air often at the start of the game, completing his first eight passes as the Bengals rolled to a 21-0 lead.
Esiason hit Cris Collinsworth with a 16-yard touchdown pass on the game's third play. He threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to running back James Brooks on the next possession, and Brooks scored again on a five-yard run midway through the second quarter.
The Giants then came to life. After Atkinson kicked a 33-yard field goal, the Giants needed just six plays to drive 73 yards after the second-half kickoff, with Joe Morris going into the end zone from one yard out.
The field goal fake brought the Giants within striking distance. Holder Jeff Rutledge took the snap on an apparent 32-yard attempt, rolled left and pitched back to Atkinson. The rookie kicker, playing his fourth game for the Giants, raced untouched into the end zone.
Atkinson added a 37-yard field goal set up by a botched Cincinnati fake punt attempt to trim the lead to 21-20, but Griffin's touchdown on the interception put an end to the comeback.