Cats scratch with running by Johnson
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CINCINNATI -- Less than two weeks after the Cincinnati Bengals signed him as an inexpensive insurance policy, Larry Johnson showed he can still be the leading man.
Want to grind it out? Give him the ball.
The newcomer piled up 107 yards yesterday, leading the way as the Bengals ran the table in the AFC North by running over the Cleveland Browns, 16-7.
"I'm just glad they trust me to go in there, especially with the division and the playoffs on the line," said Johnson, who was released by Kansas City after a suspension. "I just came here for a second chance."
The Bengals (8-3) were determined to run against the Browns (1-10), who don't score much and have given up a lot of yards on the ground. Cedric Benson missed his second consecutive game with a sprained hip, and rookie backup Bernard Scott was slowed by a minor knee injury for part of the game.
Although he barely knows the playbook, Johnson ran it to triple-digit perfection. "By far, this isn't what I was expecting," said Johnson, who carried 22 times and averaged 4.9 yards per try. "I wasn't expecting to come in and play as much as I did today."
The Bengals rushed for 210 yards overall, their second time topping the 200-yard mark this season. Carson Palmer was relegated to handing off most of the time -- Cincinnati threw it only 24 times and ran it 45.
Boring? "Absolutely not. Absolutely not. Absolutely not," said Palmer, who was 13 of 24 for 110 yards and a touchdown. "It was fun to watch."
Cincinnati reinforced its standing as top Dawg in the intrastate series. The Bengals now have the longest stretch of domination in the series' history, winning nine of the past 11 games.
The Browns reached double-digit losses for the eighth time in their 11 years as an expansion team, done in by an offense that's historically bad.
Neither team threw it much -- the Bengals by design, the Browns by default. Cleveland's Brady Quinn caught a pass from Joshua Cribbs and ran for a touchdown during his first start in the rivalry, but repeatedly was off-target while passing for only 100 yards.
Cribbs' throw was one of the Browns' best of the day. "I caught one my senior year in high school in our homecoming game," Quinn said. "That definitely allowed us to stay in the game. At that point, we felt extremely confident."
They never got close again.
Quinn grew up as a Browns fan in central Ohio, watching the let-it-fly matchups between Cleveland's Bernie Kosar and Cincinnati's Boomer Esiason. His first start in the rivalry came on a hand-it-off day. The teams combined for 63 yards passing in the first half, which ended with another unexplainable Browns blunder.
Palmer was running toward the sideline with the clock running out when Shaun Rogers caught him from behind and made a horse-collar tackle, slamming the quarterback hard on his back.
A dazed Palmer rolled over and lay face-down for several seconds, then got up and walked off slowly without assistance.
The penalty gave the Bengals an extra play with no time left, and Shayne Graham matched his career high with a 53-yard field goal that made it 13-0.
It was the second week in a row that a Browns penalty resulted in an extra play and points. Safety Hank Poteat's interference in the end zone in Detroit set up an extra play last week, allowing Matthew Stafford to throw a touchdown pass for the Lions' 38-37 victory.
"It's more frustrating having it be as a result of a penalty," coach Eric Mangini said. "It's a three-point penalty. That's two weeks in a row that it's resulted in points."
In his third start since regaining the job, Quinn went 15 of 34 for 100 yards. Cleveland managed only 169 yards overall, the fewest allowed by the Bengals in 26 years.
First Published November 30, 2009 12:00 am