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Boast of the town

Bengals back up guarantee, stun KC

CINCINNATI -- Pop the corks and make the toast, you '72 Dolphins. The perfect record is safe for one more season.

It's guaranteed.

With a punt return and a long touchdown catch, Peter Warrick eclipsed Kansas City's playmakers and let the Cincinnati Bengals back up their boast yesterday with a 24-19 victory over the Chiefs.

Trying to become the first team to go 10-0 since the 1998 Broncos, the less-than-perfect Chiefs unraveled against the Bengals (5-5), who finished the day tied for first in the AFC North after making Chad Johnson's guarantee come true.

"The worst thing is to have a guy come out and shoot his mouth [off] making a statement, and they stood up to it," Chiefs cornerback Eric Warfield said. "This is a good team, but we feel like we shouldn't have lost."

The undefeated '72 Dolphins get together for a toast when the last winless team falls each season, reveling in their distinction. Warrick made this unbeaten team fall hard.

"That's having my back," said Johnson, who apologized to some of the Chiefs for his guarantee. "They didn't leave me hanging in the wind, and I didn't want to leave them hanging in the wind."

The victory left Cincinnati in a tie with Baltimore. The Bengals hadn't been in first place since 1990, the last time they had a winning record.

Warrick, a top draft pick who symbolized their 12 years of misery, pulled off the plays that got them out of the malaise.

Johnson was in the trainer's room getting intravenous fluids for cramps when Warrick made one cut and headed upfield on a 68-yard punt return early in the fourth quarter. He hoisted the ball in celebration when he reached the 20-yard line -- and the '72 Dolphins could get ready to hoist those glasses.

Johnson was back in time to see the clinching score six minutes later. Warrick grabbed a long pass from Jon Kitna down the middle, made a 360-degree spin to shake Warfield at the Chiefs' 44-yard line and took it the rest of the way for a 77-yard TD. On the Chiefs sideline, players just dropped their heads, turned their backs and blamed themselves.

"It would have been much worse if they had beaten us at our best," Hall said. "But we didn't play well."

Rudi Johnson ran for 165 yards and Kitna threw two touchdown passes and avoided a game-turning mistake as Cincinnati positioned itself to pull off the upset.

Trent Green threw two touchdown passes in the final seven minutes, the last one a 3-yard toss to Jason Dunn with 3:19 to go. The Chiefs never got the ball back.

Afterward, Chad Johnson's teammates said they were just as confident that they could win, but weren't about to say it. "We just didn't want our secret to be let out," offensive tackle Willie Anderson said. Now, the secret's out.

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afc east standings
  W L T Pct. PF PA
Patriots 8 2 0 .800 19.6 15.5
Dolphins 6 4 0 .600 17.7 14.7
Bills 4 6 0 .400 15.9 17.0
Jets 3 7 0 .300 19.7 21.1
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