In a game filled with anti-hype (the prize: Not leaving with an 0-5 record), the Cleveland Browns get to work early and often. Akili, still outraged by how he was wronged by the Browns' shifty-eyed management team ("They used me," he cries to Leslie Visser in a pre-game interview) pitches an interception to CB Daylon McCutcheon on the very first play. The rest of the first half unfolds like a nightmare for the Bengals, with drives that end in a punt, a fumble, another punt, a botched field goal attempt, and a pair of interceptions to put Cleveland up 51 to -3 at the half.
Amazingly, the Browns find their running game. Terry Kirby rolls up 253 yards on the ground, and Rashaan Salaam, used sparingly, piles on another 164. A light finally goes on for Leslie Shepherd--he leads all receivers with 12 catches, 252 yards, and 3 TDs. Kevin Johnson nabs a pair of TDs and even speedy Ronnie Powell gets into the act, catching a 30 yard pass and not botching punt coverage.
It's a breakout game for young Tim Couch, but Akili gets hammered by the Browns' blitz packages. The offensive line struggles without RG Matt O'Dwyer, who sits in a Cleveland prison cell after picking a fight with a local SWAT team. And with Brian Milne cut from the Bengal squad, there is simply no one to pick up the rush. Jamir Miller takes up permanent residence in the Bengal backfield and even SS Marquis Smith notches a sack on his crying cousin.
Things get so bad that Corey Dillon retires halfway through the second quarter. Carl Pickens, realizing the monumental blunder he made by re-signing with the Bengals, forms a suicide pact with Darnay Scott. Leigh Steinberg calls Mike Brown at halftime and announces that he's dropping Akili as a client. "That's OK," says Mike, "I just sold the team to Steve Ballmer for a half dozen copies of Microsoft Office and a couple Harvard sweatshirts. You want one?"
For the second straight week, the league office has to step in. Tagliabue disbands the Bengal franchise with just under 12 minutes left in the game and announces that LA will get an expansion team after all. During the post-game show on Fox, Terry Bradshaw rides fellow analyst Chris Collinsworth so hard that Collinsworth breaks into tears and pleads for mercy. Howie Long is so disgusted by the display of unmanly behavior that he caves in Collinsworth's head with a studio chair. It is the highest rated Fox Sports postgame broadcast in network history.
Browns 244, Bengals -36 (before the stoppage with 12 minutes left on the clock)
And that's the way I see it. GMD