CINCINNATI, DEC. 23 -- Warren Moon, leading the NFL in passing yardage and touchdown passes, dislocated the thumb on his passing hand today near the end of the Houston Oilers' 40-20 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals and will be unable to play for at least three weeks.

Moon caught his right thumb on a helmet in the closing minutes of a defeat that knocked the Oilers out of first place in the AFC Central Division, leaving them tied with Cincinnati at 8-7 behind Pittsburgh's 9-6. Team trainer Brad Brown said Moon would have surgery tonight to clean out the dislocated joint after the team returned to Houston. The bone broke through the skin and was put back in place.

"We're looking at three or four weeks before he'd be able to throw the football very well," Brown said.

Moon is among 12 NFL quarterbacks injured in two weeks. Cody Carlson will have to try to rally the Oilers to their first-ever division title.

"It's devastating," Moon said. "You work so hard . . . It's one thing to have a division title taken away from us. It's another thing to have my season taken away from me. I'm not used to this. I'm not used to being injured."

The injury came one week after Moon had the second-best passing performance in NFL history, 527 yards against Kansas City. He hurt the thumb on an incompletion with 1:47 left today, after going 25 for 48 for 288 yards.

The division will be decided next Sunday night when the Steelers play in the Astrodome. The Bengals, who staved off playoff elimination today, finish at home against Cleveland.

James Brooks paced the Bengals by rushing for a club-record 201 yards. He broke runs of 56 yards for a touchdown and 40 and 45 yards to set up touchdowns.

"Everybody was saying that defense is so tough you can't run against them, and I said, 'We'll see,' " Brooks said. "The last time we played them {Oilers, 48-17} I was hurt {sore neck}. I redeemed myself and showed them I can still run against them any time."

Moon's injury comes at the end of his most spectacular season. He matched Dan Marino's NFL record with nine 300-yard passing games, and was closing in on a number of Marino's other records. He finishes the season with 4,689 yards passing and 33 touchdowns. He completed 342 of 584 throws. Marino holds the records with 5,084 yards, 378 completions and 623 attempts.

Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason walked over to the Oilers' training room to talk to Moon.

"You hate to see it happen to such a good guy and such a great player," Esiason said.