American Football: Bengals and Browns share touchdown feast

This is the time of year that attention traditionally turns to the serious play-off contenders, but the Cleveland Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals, two lesser lights of the National Football League, decided that Sunday was to be their day in the spotlight.

This is the time of year that attention traditionally turns to the serious play-off contenders, but the Cleveland Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals, two lesser lights of the National Football League, decided that Sunday was to be their day in the spotlight.

Neither will qualify for post-season play, but the two teams are the talk of the game after they combined for an aggregate tally of 106 points, the second-highest score in history.

Kelly Holcombe, Cleveland's quarterback, threw five touchdowns in his first start of the season, while the running back Rudi Johnson replied with 202 rushing yards for the Bengals.

There was only one defensive play, and that in the final two minutes as Deltha O'Neal intercepted Holcombe, returning it for a touchdown, sealing a 58-48 Cincinnati win. "When it rains it pours," said Cleveland's Robert Griffith, "and right now we've got to turn off the sprinkler."

While the two Ohio teams enjoyed their shoot-out, the Philadelphia Eagles became the first team to confirm their playoff place with a 27-6 win at the New York Giants. The Giants' rookie quarterback Eli Manning was sacked five times and had two passes intercepted.

Also on the threshold of post-season play are the Atlanta Falcons, who defeated the New Orleans Saints courtesy of a late Michael Vick touchdown pass to Alge Crumpler. The defending champions, New England, never gave the Baltimore Ravens a sniff, restricting them to a single field goal in a 24-3 win.

In Washington the veteran coach Joe Gibbs has denied rumours he is to quit due to poor health at the end of the season.

The Redskins, beaten 17-6 in Pittsburgh, are no longer in play-off contention despite having lured Gibbs from retirement. The coach, who led Washington to three Super Bowls in the 1980s and early Nineties, insists he will return for 2005. "My health is superb," said Gibbs, who turned 64 last week, "I don't know where that came from."

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