Bengals 23, Broncos 10
-- Chad Johnson got the best of Champ Bailey, turning the Cincinnati Bengals into an unexpected prime-time success.
Johnson, a wide receiver, left Bailey face-down in his tracks on a 50-yard touchdown catch that got the Bengals revved up for a 23-10 victory over the Denver Broncos in their long-awaited return to "Monday Night Football."
The Bengals (2-4) had not played on the Monday night stage for 12 years, the longest such exile in the league. A crowd of 65,806 -- the biggest ever to see a Bengals game in Cincinnati -- was hoping just to avoid embarrassment.
Their chatty receiver gave them so much more. A week after one of the most embarrassing moments of his career, Johnson excelled in a matchup of Pro Bowl receiver vs. Pro Bowl cornerback. With Bailey locked on him man-to-man, Johnson made one easy catch and a bunch of acrobatic ones that positioned Cincinnati for the upset.
"They believe in covering man-to-man and loading up to stop the run," quarterback Carson Palmer said. "We were counting on Chad, leaning on Chad to get open and catch balls downfield."
Denver (5-2) had won its previous four games with the NFL's best running game and a defense that ranks among the leaders in every category. The Broncos couldn't get nearly enough out of either.
Johnson did the most damage, catching seven passes for 149 yards. He had two 50-yard catches against Bailey in the first half alone, getting the downtrodden Bengals to believe they could pull it off.
"He made a couple of plays," said Bailey, a four-time Pro Bowl player who is rarely burned so often. "That's just the way it is in this league. I'm not afraid of any challenge. That's the way I roll."
A week earlier, Johnson had sent Pepto-Bismol to the Cleveland Browns' defensive backs, only to have the worst game of his career -- three drops in a 34-17 drubbing. This one more than made up for it.
"A lot of guys would go in the tank," said Palmer, who was 12 of 21 for 198 yards. "That's a true judge of character, having to bounce back from adversity with that whole Pepto-Bismol deal."
Rudi Johnson also had a breakout game, running for 119 yards and a 36-yard touchdown that put the Bengals up 20-10 late in the third quarter.
Only the Bengals' inability to score from close range prevented it from being even more lopsided. They got inside the 20 five times, but had to settle for three field goals by Shayne Graham, including a career-best 53-yarder.