It wasn't pretty. Not one bit. In fact it was more frustration, as things go when perfection eludes the Bengals. Give credit to the Browns for being pesky or blame the Bengals defense, allowing Brandon Weeden to convert 26 of 37 passes for 322 yards passing, two touchdowns and a passer rating of 114.9. Or rookie Trent Richardson breaking Cincinnati's laughable defense, generating 109 yards rushing on 19 carries and scoring two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving).
Offensively the Bengals played well enough. BenJarvus Green-Ellis worked hard for 75 yards against a tough Browns front seven, with Andy Dalton completing 24 of 31 for 318 yards passing, three touchdowns and a 128.2 passer rating. Dalton distributed the football, completing at least two passes to six receivers with four players generating at least 50 yards receiving or more. Under the file of concern, Dalton was sacked six times on the afternoon.
Despite that the Bengals 34-27 win over the Browns and the Eagles 24-23 win over the Baltimore Ravens means that when this weekend is over, Cincinnati will be tied for first place in the AFC North (forgetting tie-breakers for a moment).
Let's take a look at how the afternoon unfolded.
ADAM JONES GETS THE SCORING STARTED WITH 81-YARD TOUCHDOWN
Former Bengals defensive end Frostee Rucker was named the game captain for the Cleveland Browns, but lost the coin toss. Predictably the Bengals deferred, putting their ego-deflated defense on the field early. And on the first play of the game, the Browns call an end around to Travis Benjamin for 13 yards to the Browns 31-yard line. Trick play to start the game. Interesting. Truth be told the Browns wouldn't need much trickery against a Bengals defense consistently on their heals.
Anyway the Browns are eventually forced to punt after Robert Geathers, Jeromy Miles and company held rookie running back Trent Richardson to two yards on first down. Following an overthrow on second down (way out of bounds), quarterback Brandon Weeden takes the third down drop. Michael Johnson battles with Joe Thomas, leg-whipping Weeden for a quarterback sack.
Adam Jones heads back to return the punt, replacing Brandon Tate, makes a handful of players miss and returns the punt 81 yards for the touchdown giving the Cincinnati Bengals a 7-0 lead. It's his fifth career punt return for touchdown, and first since 2006.
PHIL DAWSON 50-YARD FIELD GOAL PUTS CLEVELAND ON THE BOARD
This was the afternoon in a nutshell. Adam Jones scores on an 81-yard touchdown and Joshua Cribbs forces a few heartbeats to miss on a 38-yard kickoff return to Cleveland's 36-yard line. And the Cleveland Browns converted an early first down during the possession, on a second down 19-yard completion to Massaquoi -- the first completion of over 10 yards in Brandon Weeden's NFL career.
The Browns continued pushing the possession into Bengals territory, eventually setting up a third-and-five from Cincinnati's 38-yard line. He finds Greg Little on a crossing pattern with Nate Clements in coverage for an 11-yard gain. Eventually the possession stalled, forcing a third down with 15 yards needed, thanks largely to an offensive holding on second down. Weeden takes the shotgun snap and throws the football beyond Josh Gordon's outstretched fingers.
Phil Dawson converts the 50-yard field goal, chipping into Cincinnati's lead, 7-3.
THE 12-PLAY DRIVE THAT RESULTS IN A PUNT
Cincinnati is sporting a 7-3 lead before the Bengals offense jogged onto the field for the first time Sunday afternoon. Jermaine Gresham commits a false start, pushing the offense to the Bengals five-yard line on first-and-15. Andy Dalton quickly releases the football after the play-action and finds Armon Binns' hitch route to the left. The receiver spun around, avoiding two tackles before falling to the Bengals 17-yard line. After a minimal gain by BenJarvus Green-Ellis on second down, the Bengals set up with third and two. Andy Dalton takes the the shotgun pass, scanning the field before taking a coverage sack.
Thankfully the Browns D'Qwell Jackson was called for a 15-yard personal foul, moving the Bengals to their own 27-yard line with an automatic first down with just over seven minutes remaining in the first quarter. Cincinnati picked up another first down after a five-yard run by BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and an eight-yard reception by Armon Binns when Andy Dalton was forced to roll out to the right. The Bengals would fall inches short of the first down on third and six from their own 44-yard line with 4:47 remaining in the first quarter. Instead of kicking a short punt, Marvin Lewis decides to go for it at midfield, easily converted by an Andy Dalton quarterback sneak.
Eventually the Bengals would stall after another minimal Green-Ellis run up the middle, an incomplete deep pass to A.J. Green and a poorly thrown football behind Jermaine Gresham.
A.J. GREEN 10-YARD TOUCHDOWN GIVES BENGALS 14-3 LEAD
Cleveland responded with a handful of conversions, but were forced to punt to start the second quarter. Adam Jones returns the punt nine yards to the Bengals 29-yard line with 14:52 remaining in the second quarter.
Now it's time to pick up chunks of yards.
The Bengals quickly picked up a first down on a second-and-eight with Dalton hitting Green-Ellis on a swing pass out of the right flats, picking up eight and converting for the first down. Dalton escapes the ensuing play, reaching for the line of scrimmage but taking the sack one yard shy of scrimmage. On the following play Dalton perfectly hits Armon Binns' vertical, with a step over cornerback Buster Skrine for a 20-yard gain to Cleveland's 45-yard line with under 13 minutes remaining in the half.
Following a four-yard gain in which Green-Ellis trips on the turf, Dalton hits A.J. Green's skinny slant for a 12-yard gain to the 29-yard line. Customary on the drive, another first down handoff to BenJarvus Green-Ellis thanks to dominating blocks from Jeff Faine and Clint Boling, giving the running back room to pick up 19 yards on the ground, stopped at the 10-yard line. With 10:33 remaining in the half, Andy Dalton takes the first down snap and flings the football to his right with A.J. Green running a comeback route. Green easily avoids the tackle, jogging into the end zone uncontested.
The Bengals have a 14-3 lead on the 74-yard drive.
TRENT RICHARDSON OUTRUNS CINCINNATI DEFENSE
Cleveland responded to the Cincinnati Bengals 14-3 lead quickly, with a little help from officials. Following an eight-yard reception by Greg Little, reaching the Browns 32-yard line, Brandon Weeden converts the eventual third down to running back Chris Ogbonnaya. Officials called a helmet-to-helmet, giving the Browns another 15 yards.
With 8:54 remaining in the second quarter, Weeden hits Alex Smith on a tight end screen over the middle for another 17 yards setting up first and ten from the Bengals 32-yard line. Trent Richardson takes the ball, bounces around before aiming down the right sidelines, sprinting into the endzone for a touchdown. Browns reduce Cincinnati's lead 14-10.
MIKE NUGENT GIVES THE BENGALS A FIELD GOAL BEFORE HALF TIME
The feeling is that the momentum is slowly shifting to the Cleveland Browns. Leon Hall was called for a personal foul hitting a running back but D'Qwell Jackson destroyed a defenseless receiver Armon Binns, knocking him out of the game. I'm sure someone will make sense of that for me because I'm totally confused. Anyway. Eventually the Bengals found themselves deep in Cleveland's territory inside the redzone after a 31-yard pass interference penalty by Buster Skrine, covering Marvin Jones on a vertical down the left sidelines.
Then the Bengals offense stalled with under six minutes remaining in the first half.
Following an Andre Smith false start, pushing the offense to Browns 23-yard line, BenJarvus Green-Ellis picked up a minimal gain up the middle and Andy Dalton overthrew two wide open receivers.
Mike Nugent converts the 39-yard field goal to give the Bengals a 17-10 lead.
BRANDON TATE 44-YARD TOUCHDOWN RECEPTION TAKES 24-10 LEAD
Sporting a seven-point lead and a touchdown, the Cincinnati Bengals offense begins the second half from their own 20-yard line. After a minimal three-yard gain up the middle by BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Andy Dalton slings the football to A.J. Green on an out from the slot, picking up 10 yards and the first down. Cleveland exploded an attempted end around, forcing Dalton to keep the football and absorb the hit for a three-yard loss. It's fine. Andy Dalton hits Brandon Tate's hitch, picking up 22 yards after a missed tackle to Cleveland's 44-yard line.
Tate would make an even bigger play.
Eventually the Bengals are forced into a third-and-five (another limited Green-Ellis gain and an incomplete deep pass to Green). Dalton takes the hand off and throws the football deep down the right sidelines. Brandon Tate, beating T.J. Ward by a step (at least), hauls in the 44-yard touchdown and giving the Bengals a 24-10 lead over the Browns.
That's two receptions for 66 yards on the drive for Tate.
ANDY DALTON INTERCEPTION LEADS TO TRENT RICHARDSON TOUCHDOWN RECEPTION
The Cincinnati Bengals had their best possession of the afternoon, forcing the Cleveland Browns offense into a three-out-out thanks to a three-yard loss on a running back screen to Trent Richardson. Cincinnati starts the second possession in the third quarter from their own 35-yard line with over ten minutes remaining. Yet thanks to a holding call that put the Bengals behind schedule, and an ill-advised sack taken by Andy Dalton, the Bengals go three-and-out, punting the football back to Cleveland.
Kevin Huber exploded the punt 58 yards, just like a fifth-round pick should, compounded by an illegal block, the Browns start their ensuing possession from their own seven-yard line. Cleveland moves. Following consecutive runs to Richardson for nine yards, quarterback Brandon Weeden snaps a fastball over the middle to Alex Smith with Rey Maualuga within a whisper of the tight end. The 10-yard reception converts the first down. Again Cleveland's drive stalls, thanks to an Alex Mack offensive holding, eventually forcing the Browns to punt.
Cincinnati takes the ensuing possession at their own 24-yard line, picking up a quick ten yards on a snap pass to A.J. Green. But again the Bengals stall, following a minimal one-yard gain by BenJarvus Green-Ellis and a no-gain to Jermaine Gresham. D'Qwell Jackson intercepts a deflected Andy Dalton pass at the Browns 47-yard line.
The Browns and Trent Richardson easily pushed the Cincinnati Bengals defense around, highlighted by a 23-yard touchdown reception by Trent Richardson, capping a 53-yard drive on five plays.
THE AMAZING ANDREW HAWKINS 50-YARD TOUCHDOWN RECEPTION
The Cleveland Browns are clearly establishing strong momentum early in the fourth quarter, following an amazing Trent Richardson reception, bouncing off a handful of Bengals defenders (or another horrifying showing by the Bengals defense). Either way the Bengals have to recoup some of that momentum or risk the Browns completing a comeback later in the quarter. Dalton quickly picked up a first down on three-yard A.J. Green reception and eight-yard catch by Armon Binns to Cincinnati's 37-yard line with over 13 minutes remaining in the game.
Third down and one with 12:50 remaining, Andy Dalton hands off to BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who finds a massive hole to the right, picking up seven yards that could have been much longer if not for a T.J. Ward collision.
It was over after that. For the Browns that is.
Andy Dalton takes a quarterback sack by Frostee Rucker, a ten-yard loss -- which was recovered by BenJarvus Green-Ellis on a second down reception -- and on third down at midfield, Andy Dalton takes the shotgun snap. Pressure forces the quarterback to roll out right, before finding Andrew Hawkins.
Now that little squirt bounces off tackles, plays off blockers, redirects inside for the 50-yard touchdown, giving the Bengals a 31-17 lead with under 11 minutes remaining in the game.
THE BROWNS RESPOND WITH AN 80-YARD DRIVE
The Cincinnati Bengals simply can't help it. We don't want to say that they're awful, but they're playing so terrible that it's making my stomach upset. After Andrew Hawkins gave the Bengals a 31-17 lead, the Browns came right back on an 80-yard drive in eight plays with a wide open Greg Little over the middle scoring the 24-yard touchdown reception.
On the bright side Rey Maualuga made a nice play, but we suppose at some point the ball carrier will bang into the linebacker. It's just the percentages.
MIKE NUGENT FIELD GOAL GIVES BENGALS 10-POINT LEAD WITH TWO MINUTES
It seems that every time the Cincinnati Bengals prepare to push their spikes on Cleveland's throats, the Browns pull themselves up off the turf. Andrew Hawkins has one of the more amazing touchdown receptions we'll ever see. The Browns respond with an 80-yard touchdown drive in eight plays, capped by a 24-yard touchdown reception by Greg Little.
Now the Bengals switch to a more conservative clock-killing mode. A handful of runs and short passes sets up a third down and six at Cleveland's 45-yard line as the Browns take their first timeout with 3:43 remaining in the game. Andy Dalton takes the third down snap and throws down the left sidelines. Jermaine Gresham grabs the football, bobbles it and surprisingly secures it as he's falling out of bounds. Amazing reception. Cleveland uses their second time out after a failed challenge.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis is stuffed in the backfield with 3:28 remaining, a two-yard loss when the Browns use their final timeout, setting up a second and 12. Again Dalton hands off to Green-Ellis runs into a pile of bodies, bounces outside after no one bothered tackling the back for a six-yard gain.
Green-Ellis is held to a minimal gain on third and six. The reliable Mike Nugent converts the 37-yard field goal down the middle, giving the Bengals a 34-24 lead with 2:09 remaining.
Bengals defensive end Robert Geathers started at defensive end, presumably over Carlos Dunlap, as some will have us believe. However during Dunlap's time with the Bengals, Geathers has been the usual starter every game when available. Jeromy Miles also started the game at strong safety over Taylor Mays.
|CINCINNATI BENGALS||CLEVELAND BROWNS|
|CB Dre Kirkpatrick (Knee)||LB James-Michael Johnson (Ribs, Oblique)|
|CB Jason Allen (Thigh)||S Raymond Ventrone (Hand)|
|RB Bernard Scott (Hand)||QB Thaddeus Lewis|
|DE Carlos Dunlap (Knee)||WR Jordan Norwood|
|TE Donald Lee (Thigh)||RB Brandon Jackson|
|TE Richard Quinn (Coach's Decision)||OL Oniel Cousins (Ankle)|
|WR Ryan Whalen (Coach's Decision)||LB Tank Carder|