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It's guaranteed: '76 Bucs are safe

©Associated Press
November 4, 2002

HOUSTON -- Chad Johnson guaranteed victory for the Bengals on Sunday. Artrell Hawkins sealed it. Then all involved backpedaled from their pregame bravado.

Energized by a 102-yard interception return by Hawkins and four touchdown passes by Jon Kitna, Cincinnati became the last team to win this season, 38-3 over the Texans.

The Bengals have the league's worst mark the past 12 seasons (54-130 including 2002) but that didn't keep receiver Johnson from guaranteeing they would end their 0-7 start. Cincinnati's win leaves the 1976 Bucs, who went 0-14, as the only team to lose all its games in a season.

Still, 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."

Hawkins' score 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.

"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 (Texans) coach (Dom) Capers in golf and I said, 'Yes, I guarantee I can beat Coach Capers in golf.' "

David Carr's string of 97 passes without an interception ended in dramatic fashion. Hawkins stepped in front of a pass for Jabar Gaffney in the end zone and bolted down the sideline. After appearing to step out of bounds at the Houston 24, he cut inside. Carr made a diving tackle attempt near the goal line but missed.

Given a 10-3 lead, Kitna didn't waste it. 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 lead.

Louis Breeden had a 102-yard interception return for a touchdown for Cincinnati Nov. 8, 1981, at San Diego. Eric Bieniemy returned a kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown against the Giants on Oct. 26, 1997.

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