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Cincinnati 38, Houston 3

  |   Nov. 3, 2002 at 7:32 PM
HOUSTON, Nov. 3 (UPI) -- Jon Kitna threw a career-high four touchdowns and cornerback Artrell Hawkins returned an interception 102 yards for a score Sunday as the Cincinnati Bengals easily picked up their first victory of the season, 38-3 over the Houston Texans.

Cincinnati (1-8) entered Sunday as the only winless team in the NFL, but Coach Dick LeBeau and wide receiver Chad Johnson guaranteed a win over Houston (2-6), which was coming off the first road victory in franchise history.

"I didn't know my powers of clairvoyance were so omnipotent," Lebeau said. "I just wanted the team to know that I was proud of them and that I believed in them. I thought we were close to playing well and we did today."

Kitna completed 22 of 27 passes for 263 yards and is 39 of 50 for 456 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions since regaining his starting job last week.

"The last three weeks we've played very efficiently with a high completion percentage," Kitna said. "I think the guys are getting confident in the offense and with me running the offense. We executed at a high level today."

Corey Dillon rushed for 92 yards on 22 carries and Peter Warrick caught seven passes for 86 yards as Cincinnati gained 376 yards.

"The offense was great again," LeBeau said. "Kitna's quarterback rating was 127 last week and was probably around 150 today. Our receivers were all in sync, but the heart of all of this was our running game."

The defense got things started for the Bengals when Hawkins intercepted David Carr in the end zone on the final play of the first quarter and raced 102 yards down the sideline for a 10-3 lead. It was the first career touchdown for Hawkins and tied the longest play in franchise history.

"We were playing a nickel defense, it was quick out route and I got a good break on it," Hawkins said. "I just reacted to what I saw. It was a long play, I started to run out of gas about 30 yards away. It was a good play at an opportune time. It changed the momentum, we came alive after that."

"That flipped the game around," LeBeau said. "They seemed to be about to score and we changed the momentum."

Kitna threw a pair of touchdown passes to Michael Westbrook as the Bengals pulled away and rolled to their most lopsided victory since Dec. 17, 1989 against the Houston Oilers.

"They outplayed us and were more physical than us the whole day," Houston coach Dom Capers said. "This is the first time all year we were physically beat in all three phases of the game. We had one of our best practices of the year on Friday. I was fooled. This is a step backwards for us."

Houston was held to 268 yards, including only 82 on the ground. Carr completed 18 of 32 passes for 199 yards and two interceptions after going three straight games without being intercepted.

"This is embarrassing," he said. "It's a tough one to swallow. We warmed up and we turned around and we lost 38-3, or at least it seemed like it was that quick. We were pretty confident after last week's win. I'm just bewildered right now."

The Texans were forced to punt on their first possession following Hawkins' touchdowns. The Bengals responded with a 10-play, 78-yard drive capped by Kitna's 26-yard scoring strike to Westbrook.

Kris Brown missed a 46-yard field goal on Houston's next possession and Cincinnati took advantage. Kitna completed four of five passes on a 64-yard drive and connected with Warrick on a 33-yard touchdown for a a 17-3 cushion.

After a scoreless third quarter, Kitna threw a 12-yard touchdown to Westbrook on the first drive of the fourth and hit Johnson with 10-yard touchdown pass at 6:06.

Kitna, who had just three touchdown passes in five games coming in, had not thrown more than two touchdowns in a game since Nov. 12 2000, when he was with the Seattle Seahawks.

Westbrook, who has struggled in his first season with Cincinnati, caught two touchdowns in a game for the first time since Oct. 3, 1999 as a member of the Washington Redskins.

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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