Final

Bengals 24

(7-5, 3-3 away)

Steelers 20

(4-8, 2-4 home)

1:00 PM ET, November 30, 2003

 

1 2 3 4 T
CIN 7 7 0 1024
PIT 0 3 7 1020

Pittsburgh had taken late lead

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Cincinnati Bengals aren't supposed to win like this. Not against this team or against these odds. Not at this time of the season or in so big a game.

Allen's Analysis
Eric Allen
Question on the Bengals: Is today's comeback even bigger than the win over Kansas City?
This win is bigger for two reasons. One, they get to stay in first place for another week, which is a huge confidence boost for a young team. Second, these victories validate everything the Bengals' coaching staff has told them since preseason about working hard. Because every one of these victories is the result of the hard work the Bengals are doing week in and week out.

Question on the Steelers: Aside from WR and LB, will there be a lot of turnover in the offseason?
There will be some and it should start with their quarterback, offensive line and running backs. The Steelers have been a disappointment this season because of the poor play coming from those positions. Coming into the season, the QB position was supposed to be a strength, but it hasn't been. Tommy Maddox has played badly at times and it's partially the fault of his faltering offensive line and non-existent running game. The Steelers seem to have doomed themselves by de-emphasizing the running game early in the season and now are stuck with the consequences of their decision.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

Somehow they did, and the franchise that could barely win a game of any kind for 12 seasons now has the kind of season-defining victory that can lead to championships.

Jon Kitna's third touchdown pass, an 18-yarder in the rear of the end zone to Matt Schobel with 13 seconds left, finished a last-minute drive that carried the Bengals past the rival Pittsburgh Steelers 24-20 Sunday.

The Bengals (7-5) not only won their fourth in a row and sixth in seven games to set up a first-place showdown next week in Baltimore, they all but eliminated the Steelers (4-8). Pittsburgh won six of the last nine titles in the AFC North or Central. The Steelers are one loss away from their third losing season in the last five.

"In years past, we didn't win the tough games," running back Corey Dillon said. "Now we're winning them. As long as I've been here, December was just December, it doesn't mean too much. This is different."

Tommy Maddox, 28-of-42 for 313 yards, gave Pittsburgh its first lead at 20-17 with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Hines Ward with 1:05 remaining. The Steelers rallied from a 14-3 deficit behind Jerome Bettis' 1-yard touchdown run on a 75-play drive and Jeff Reed's 39-yard field goal.

But after Reed's short kickoff into a strong wind and Brandon Bennett's 27-yard return gave Cincinnati the ball at its 48, Kitna -- who has 18 touchdown passes and only one interception in Cincinnati's seven victories -- got the Bengals in the end zone in four plays.

Asked the Bengals' mindset with half the field to cover in barely a minute, coach Marvin Lewis said, "Let's go win the game."

Darned if they didn't. Kitna hit Peter Warrick for 18 yards and Bennett ran 16 yards. After an incompletion, Kitna found Schobel for the Bengals' biggest touchdown since they last won a division in 1990.

Back then, the Bengals used an early December 16-12 win in Pittsburgh as a springboard to that title.

"I said the division had to go through Pittsburgh," said Ward, who made 13 catches for 149 yards. "They came into Pittsburgh and stole a big victory."

Lewis intends to do the same thing next week in Baltimore, even if he wouldn't guarantee it like Chad Johnson did before the Bengals upset Kansas City.

"We're going to win three in a row on the road," said Lewis, whose team was coming off a victory at San Diego. "That's not a prediction, that's our goal."

Kitna was 18-of-32 for 271 yards and three touchdowns, including first-half scores of 51 yards to Kelley Washington and 4 to Chad Johnson, who made six catches for 117 yards. Cornerback Chad Scott was in coverage on both plays.

"This was a reflection of our season: up and down, up and down, and then at the end, a letdown," Bettis said. "It's tough to deal with."

Until the decisive final drive, the Bengals were scoreless in the second half except for Shayne Graham's 44-yard field goal that made it 17-13.

The Steelers were in position to score just before the end of the first half, but backup quarterback Charlie Batch fumbled on second-and-goal from the 10.

Batch, playing only because Maddox left for three plays with a left leg injury, was attempting to throw a screen pass. The ball slipped out of his hand and Cincinnati's John Thornton fell on it. Referee Bernie Kukar ruled Batch's arm was not going forward -- making it a lateral that could be recovered, not a pass.

The Bengals immediately ran a kneel-down play to end the half, causing coach Bill Cowher to confront Kukar and ask why the play wasn't reviewed. Cowher couldn't challenge the call because less than two minutes remained in the half.

"You would think they would at least look at the play," Cowher said.

Told the replay official was Dale Hamer, formerly the head linesman on Kukar's crew, Cowher said, "I guess that's why he's retired." ^Notes:@ Bettis' 62 yards rushing gave him 12,010 in his career. He needs 65 yards to overtake Thurman Thomas for ninth place. ... Ward (13 catches for 149 yards) had X-rays on his back and ribs, but doesn't think he was seriously hurt. ... The Bengals' four-game winning streak is their first in a season since 1989. They also won three at the end of the 1996 season and their 1997 opener. ... The Steelers had won nine of their last 10 division games and had won 17 of 23 from Cincinnati since 1992.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERCINPIT
cinTD9:10Touchdown
Drive info: 5 plays, 73 yds, 2:04
60
FOURTH QUARTERCINPIT
cinTD0:19Touchdown
Drive info: 4 plays, 52 yds, 0:44
2320
FIRST QUARTERCINPIT
cin8:58
Drive info: 5 plays, 73 yds, 2:04
70
FOURTH QUARTERCINPIT
cin0:13
Drive info: 4 plays, 52 yds, 0:44
2420
pitFG11:31Jeff Reed 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 7 plays, 19 yds, 1:50
1413
cinFG8:35Shayne Graham 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 7 plays, 43 yds, 3:24
1713
pitTD1:35Touchdown
Drive info: 11 plays, 80 yds, 2:05
1719
pit1:05
Drive info: 11 plays, 80 yds, 2:05
1720
THIRD QUARTERCINPIT
pitTD1:15Jerome Bettis, 1 yd run
Drive info: 12 plays, 75 yds, 7:16
149
SECOND QUARTERCINPIT
pitFG9:20Jeff Reed 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 13 plays, 65 yds, 15:39
73
THIRD QUARTERCINPIT
pit1:10
Drive info: 12 plays, 75 yds, 7:16
1410
SECOND QUARTERCINPIT
cinTD2:00Touchdown
Drive info: 16 plays, 82 yds, 7:02
133
cin2:00
Drive info: 16 plays, 82 yds, 7:02
143