By Steve Keating
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - The Cleveland Browns held on to beat the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 in the Battle of Ohio on Sunday to claim their first win of the NFL season.
Seneca Wallace, starting in place of injured Jake Delhomme, tossed a touchdown while Peyton Hillis ran for another and Phil Dawson booted three field goals as the Browns (1-3) survived a brilliant performance from Bengals (2-2) wide receiver Terrell Owens to claim a hard-fought win.
"We needed it, you have to start somewhere," said Browns linebacker Scott Fujita. "We have always talked about finishing and when you put the time in, the work in, it pays off at some point.
"It's good to get a win in the bank but this does nothing but guarantee that we are not going to be 0-16. It is one win but we are going to have to build on that.
The win belonged to the Browns but the spotlight belonged to Owens, the flashy wide receiver hauling in 10 passes for 222 yards, including a 78-yard touchdown, to move past Isaac Bruce and into second place on the all-time receiving yards list with 15,325.
Only Hall of Famer Jerry Rice caught passes for more yards with 22,895.
Cleveland got on the scoreboard first converting a Cedric Benson fumble near mid-field into a 30-yard Dawson field goal.
Wallace opened the second quarter engineering an 87-yard drive capped by Evan Moore hauling in a 24-yard pass for his first career touchdown.
The Bengals answered with a 24-yard Mike Nugent field goal before Carson Palmer hooked up with Owens on a career-best 78-yard bomb that tied the game at 10-10.
Owens, known for elaborate and sometimes controversial touchdown celebrations, was low key after his first touchdown for the Bengals, calmly laying the ball down on the turf as he crossed the goal line and briefly striking a pose.
"As an offense, we're frustrated, I don't think that personally I'm frustrated," said Owens.
"From the standpoint of us knowing that we have offensive weapons and we're not moving the ball as we're capable of moving it, that's where the frustration comes in."
The Browns took a 13-10 lead into the intermission on a 31-yard Dawson field goal then came storming out of the break marching down the field with Hillis crashing over from the one to restore Cleveland's 10-point cushion.
Cleveland kept up the pressure in third quarter sacking Palmer and forcing a fumble which they immediately turned into another Dawson field goal.
After watching their team lose their first three contests by a total of 12 points and squander fourth-quarter leads each time, Browns fans spent the rest of game on the edge of their seats as the Bengals rallied.
Nugent booted a 25-yard field goal to end the third quarter and Palmer opened the fourth with three-yard touchdown pass to Brian Leonard to slice the Cleveland advantage to 23-20.
But this time the Browns would bend but not break, sacking Palmer in the game's dying minutes before running out the clock behind hard-nosed running from Hillis, who finished with 102 yards on 27 carries.
"We're going to get into a ton of tough games throughout the course of the year and understanding what we have to do to win those games and finishing those games is so important," said Browns coach Eric Mangini.
"I thought we had been getting closer to that and we finally did here today."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)