So the Battle for Ohio wasn't so much a battle, as it was a total dominating effort by our defense, led by Leon Hall's three interceptions (one for a pick-six). This is the first shutout pitched by the Bengals defense since a 30-0 win, at Cleveland, in 2006. Before that, it was December 3, 1989 shutout, at Cleveland. Brandon Johnson added an interception, giving Browns quarterbacks four interceptions. That's the first time the Bengals intercepted four passes since picking off four Derek Anderson passes in 19-14 win, on December 23, 2007, against (but not at) Cleveland.
As if that wasn't enough, the Bengals offensive line showed with a workman like effort, largely contributing to the team's 191 yards rushing; led by Cedric Bensons' 171 yards rushing on 38 attempts. With a powerful wind, and the Bengals obviously geared for a hard nose ground effort (evident that they only activated four wide receivers), Ryan Fitzpatrick's contributions were limited to nine pass attempts -- but 14 called passing plays, five of which ended with scrambles or a sack. So the Bengals ran, ran, and ran. As a result, T.J. Houshmandzadeh was shutout for the first time in a game in which he played, since an October 17, 2003 loss at, you guessed it, Cleveland.
If there's one criticism that the Bengals didn't overcome, or a trend that they allowed to continue, is the inability to put together two halves of football on offense. After only punting one time in the first half, in the second half, the Bengals punted five straight times before their final possession with back-to-back victory formation plays.
Still, criticism is invalid this game. Winning by two scores -- first time this season -- and shutting out their opponent (Browns or anyone else) is a tremendous accomplishment for the players, who are still efforting to show some professional pride; getting blown out by 28 points in four of the past eight games, notwithstanding. This still doesn't validate Mike Brown, because win, lose, or tie this game, it's still going to be his way. So enjoy this win, I say. Enjoy the shutout, the reemergence of a rushing offense, and an opportunistic defense that forced four turnovers on a team that came into Sunday with a +9 turnover differential.
Touchdowns? You're not getting them. Bengals haven't allowed a touchdown in six straight quarters, progressing our Wreck Your Team project. So far, we momentarily sent the Eagles into chaos, exposed the Jaguars, destroyed the Redskins' playoff run, and likely sealed Romeo Crennel's (and maybe G.M. Phil Savage) fate in Cleveland. Since the bye week, the Bengals are 2-3-1.
Defensively, the Bengals limited the Browns to 181 yards total offense, which is clearly the best defensive showing of the season. Before that, it was a 252-yard effort against the New York Jets. Including three sacks (two by John Thornton, another by Chinedum Ndukwe), the Bengals limited the Browns passing offense to 45 yards. 45. Yards. Not including sacks, the Bengals defense allowed 76 yards passing. It's the best pass defensive effort of the season. I mean, it's not even close.
Leon Hall is largely responsible for that. Along with three picks on passes that targeted Braylon Edwards, the Browns star receiver only caught four passes for 35 yards. Clearly, Leon Hall was the better receiver today.
This is the first string of back-to-back wins this season, and first time since closing the season with wins over Cleveland and Miami in 2007.