HOUSTON -- Chad Johnson guaranteed victory for the Cincinnati Bengals and Artrell Hawkins sealed it.
Energized by a 102-yard interception return by Hawkins and four touchdown passes by Jon Kitna, the Bengals became the last NFL team to get a victory this season, 38-3 Sunday over the Texans.
|Houston's Matt Stevens gives futile chase to Peter Warrick on Warrick's 33-yard touchdown.(AP)|
Despite the satisfying victory, the Bengals weren't as boastful after the game.
"It feels good, but everyone misinterpreted the guarantee thing," Johnson said. "I didn't mean any disrespect to the Texans. What I wanted to do was add fuel to our fire, make a statement."
Johnson made the statement before the game. Hawkins made one during it. His run tied the longest play in Cincinnati history and put the Bengals ahead for good.
"All it was was a quick out route," Hawkins said. "I got a good break on it and the rest is history."
Bengals coach Dick LeBeau made light of the boast after the victory was secured.
"I didn't know my powers of clairvoyance were so omnipotent," LeBeau said. "I just wanted them (Bengals) to know I was proud of them and I believed that.
"That guarantee got misconstrued. Someone asked me if I could beat Coach Capers in golf and I said, 'Yes, I guarantee I can beat coach Capers in golf.'"
David Carr's string of 97 consecutive passes without an interception came to an end in dramatic fashion. Hawkins stepped in front of a pass for Jabar Gaffney in the end zone and bolted down the sideline with a clear field ahead of him.
After appearing to step out of bounds at the Houston 24, he cut back inside and his only pursuer was Carr. The quarterback made a diving tackle attempt near the goal line before falling in Hawkins' wake.
"Tony Boselli (an offensive lineman) caught me four years ago," Hawkins said. "I couldn't let this quarterback catch me. I ran out of gas about 30 yards out."
Referee Larry Nemmers said instant replay was inconclusive, rejecting a Texans challenge.
"Embarrassing is one thought that comes to mind," Carr said. "It seemed like we went out and warmed up and turned around and it was 38-3. I'll have to watch film. It's tough to swallow right now."
Louis Breeden had a 102-yard interception return for a touchdown Nov. 8, 1981 at San Diego. Eric Bieniemy returned a kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown against the New York Giants on Oct. 26, 1997.
Hawkins' return gave the Bengals a 10-3 lead, and Kitna didn't waste the momentum.
He found Michael Westbrook for a 26-yard touchdown in the second quarter and passed 33 yards to Peter Warrick with 42 seconds left in the half for a 24-3 halftime lead.
The scored was tied 3-3 before Hawkins' theft. Kris Brown kicked a 23-yard field goal for Houston after the Bengals committed three penalties totaling 50 yards. Neil Rackers matched it with a 25-yarder.
Kitna made his fourth consecutive start and completed 13 of 15 passes in the first half, 22 of 27 overall for 263 yards. He was not intercepted.
Kitna's fourth TD pass went for 10 yards to Johnson, sealing Cincinnati's victory pledge.
The Texans were coming off their first road victory at Jacksonville and were favored by three points against the winless Bengals, who haven't had a winning season since 1990.
Instead, they never recovered from Hawkins' huge play.
"We had our best practice Friday, so I was fooled," Capers said. "I thought going on the field we'd play well, but we didn't. We have to find out why it happened and make sure it doesn't happen again."
Carr completed 18 of 32 passes for 199 yards. His second interception set up Johnson's satisfying touchdown catch in the fourth quarter, completing a run of 38 consecutive points.
It was the Texans' worst defeat in their eight-game history.
Hawkins said he encountered some comments from Texans defensive end Gary Walker before the game.
Did he respond?
"No, he's too big," Johnson said.
- Cincinnati is 6-0 against expansion teams.
- Corey Dillion owns seven of the top 10 individual game rushing records in Bengals history.
- Cincinnati's last non-losing season was an 8-8 finish in 1996.
- Houston's field goal to end the first drive of the game marked the third time this season the Texans scored on their first drive.
- The 35-point victory was Cincinnati's biggest victory margin since it beat the Houston Oilers 61-7 on Dec. 17, 1989.
The Associated Press News Service
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