HOUSTON — Just when the Houston Oilers appeared to have overcome a hard-hitting Cleveland defense that forced six turnovers, Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar stepped in and delivered the knockout punch.
Trailing 13-9, Kosar threw a 55-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Langhorne with 2:10 to play for the go-ahead points in a 23-20 victory over the Oilers Sunday.
The Oilers failed to cover the ensuing short kickoff and Cleveland's D.D. Hoggard recovered at the Houston 20. Thirty-two seconds later, Earnest Byner scored on a one-yard dive with 1:30 to go.
"(Willie) Drewery thought it (the kickoff) was going to hit the ground and bounce out of bounds," Houston Coach Jerry Glanville said. "The ball should never hit the ground on a kickoff. That changed the complexion of the game."
The Oilers tacked on a touchdown with six seconds to play on a 20-yard pass from Warren Moon to Butch Woolfolk, but it was not enough to keep the Browns from rolling to their fifth straight victory over Houston.
"It wasn't pretty, but we'll take it," said Kosar, who completed 11 of 26 passes for 180 yards and was sacked 3 times. "We couldn't seem to get anything going against their defense. We tried to get the big play all day and they stopped us. It wasn't until the fourth quarter that we got the job done."
The Oilers' Glanville said: "We put ourselves in a bad position time after time. We overcame a lot of things, but we couldn't overcome everything."
Until Kosar drove the Browns 80 yards for the go-ahead touchdown, the Browns' only points came on field goals of 34, 29 and 35 yards by Matt Bahr.
Houston's Tony Zendejas had kicked field goals of 35 and 36 yards to give the Oilers their 13-9 lead, following an eight-yard touchdown run by Larry Moriarty.
Moon, who completed 22 of 31 pass attempts for 264 yards, threw 3 interceptions. Mike Rozier had one fumble and Drewrey had two.
The Oilers (1-1) had led throughout until Moon threw two interceptions in the third quarter, allowing the Browns (1-1) to get back into the game.