Oh, no. Not again.
I hate life.
Greatest. Day. Ever.
These were the roller-coaster emotions from Bengals fans on Sunday, who showed bi-polar symptoms during the first half against the Cleveland Browns.
It wasn't our fault. That's what Cincinnati Bengals football does to us.
Cincinnati's offense continues to honor November with the perception of regression. Their first five possessions acquired more turnovers (2) than first downs (0) due to two Andy Dalton interceptions to Joe Haden, who returned one for a touchdown late in the first quarter to give Cleveland a 13-0 lead.
It boiled down to this: The Bengals just weren't applying football 101 in the first quarter. Penalties stalled offensive possessions, turnovers put Cincinnati in an early deficit that forced the Bengals into comeback mode way too early in the game.
Fortunately, the infections plaguing Cincinnati's offense this month didn't metastasize among the other units. James Harrison launched Cincinnati's comeback effort with a first quarter interception that would eventually slice into Cleveland's lead on a Jermaine Gresham touchdown.
After Mike Zimmer's defense forced a three-and-out and Shawn Williams recorded a partial punt block on Cleveland's ensuing possession, the Bengals responded with a 38-yard drive that ended with a Mohamed Sanu touchdown and a 14-13 lead. Another three-and-out produced by Cincinnati's defense led to Jayson DiManche's blocked punt, returned 24 yards for a touchdown by the recently promoted Tony Dye.
It was a combined effort in the second quarter, basking in the comfortable winds behind their backs that gave every offense against it, one hell of a struggle. Neither team scored points when their respective offense played against the wind -- Cleveland scored 20 points in the first and third quarter, while the Bengals logged 41 in the second and fourth quarters. Cincinnati ended up scoring 31 points in the second quarter, the most in a single quarter in franchise history.
Once the weather deteriorated late in the third, Cincinnati secured their win as Cleveland was unable to mount any sort of comeback due to the conditions.
The Bengals have a much needed bye next week, then hit the road for San Diego.
Cleveland takes the early lead
The Cleveland Browns were obviously looking to build off the running game early, initializing their first two possessions with runs of six and seven yards on first down respectively. The first possession quickly stalled after Reggie Nelson dropped Willie McGahee for a two-yard loss, followed by Dre Kirkpatrick's third down sack.
However, the second possession greatly rewarded Cleveland's insistence with the ground game. After Chris Ogbonnaya gained seven with 9:01 remaining in the first quarter, quarterback Jason Campbell quickly flipped the football five yards to the running back for a first down.
On the following play, Campbell sneaks the handoff to Ogbonnaya while showing reverse behind them. Safety George Iloka, who was eventually hurt on the play, realized who had the ball just as Ogbonnaya was sprinting past him, finally making the stop 43 yards later at Cincinnati's 25-yard line.
Two first downs later, Cleveland has third and goal from their own one-yard line. Jason Campbell finds a wide open Greg Little on a crossing pattern, had he floated the football over the line of scrimmage. Instead, Michael Johnson knocks the football out with a Mike Tyson jab as the football spins on the turf as a harmless incomplete pass. Cleveland took a 3-0 lead on Billy Cundiff's 20-yard field goal with 4:10 remaining in the first quarter.
Andy Dalton plays his own song, "I'm awful, sometimes."
After the Bengals failed to generate a first down in their opening two possessions, Andy Dalton throws the football into a pack of Browns defenders on the first play of the Bengals third possession. A nice play by Adam Jones on third down forced the Billy Cundiff to convert a 28-yard field goal, giving the Browns a 6-0 lead.
Two plays deep into Cincinnati's fourth possession, Andy Dalton tried to slip the football into A.J. Green on an out-route. This time Joe Haden returned the interception 29 yards for the touchdown and a 13-0 lead.
And the rest of the offense plays backup vocals
Kyle Cook's tripping penalty during Cincinnati's opening possession put the Bengals in first and 20. The Bengals were unable to recover from it. On the team's fifth possession, following consecutive interceptions thrown by Andy Dalton, Andrew Whitworth was called for an offensive hold, putting Cincinnati into second and 20 with 1:51 remaining in the first quarter. Jermaine Gresham dropped a pass and the team conceded the drive on a Giovani Bernard checkdown.
A Dre Kirkpatrick NFL introduction... and welcome to the NFL moment (again)
With 11:32 remaining in the first quarter, the Browns have third and six from their own 18-yard line. After taking the shotgun snap, Jason Campbell scanned the field while cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick recovered from an initial shove during his Chris Crocker-like blitz. Kirkpatrick tied up Campbell's legs for a one-yard loss on the quarterback sack, forcing the Browns to punt.
Cincinnati had secured control of the game, enjoying a 31-13 lead with 9:40 remaining in the third quarter. Browns quarterback Jason Campbell launched the football down the left sidelines where wide receiver Josh Gordon had beaten Kirkpatrick by a step. Campbell eased the football into Gordon's embrace, increasing his distance for an eventual 74-yard touchdown, reducing Cincinnati's lead 31-20.
James Harrison's act of being a man's man
The Browns, having already secured a 13-0 lead with 56 seconds remaining in the first quarter, have first down from their own 20-yard line. Jason Campbell's attempted pass is deflected into the air where linebacker James Harrison juggles the football and eventually secures the interception. After half of Cleveland's offense tried to bring down Harrison, the linebacker's touchdown was negated due to Brandon Thompson's illegal block in the back.
Jermaine Gresham follows the Harrison manly man award with his own
On the first play of the second quarter, the second play of the possession following James Harrison's interception, Dalton eases a floater towards the front right pylon targeting Gresham on a nine-route -- fading towards the front right pylon. After securing the football, Gresham forces three missed tackles and scores a touchdown to eventually bite into Cleveland's lead, 13-7.
So.. Harrison INT leads to Gresham TD, Williams partial punt block leads to Sanu pass, then Sanu TD catch. That about cover it? #wild— Josh Kirkendall (@CincyJungle) November 17, 2013
Cincinnati's momentum started becoming infectious. After Harrison's interception and Gresham's touchdown reception, the defense forced a three-and-out. Shawn Williams highlighted great special teams play on Sunday, partially blocking the punt with 13:32 remaining in the second quarter, giving the Bengals the football at Cleveland's 24-yard line.
On Cincinnati's first offensive play after the punt block, Mohamed Sanu catches the backward lateral pass, and floats the football beautiful over Barkevious Mingo where Giovani Bernard hauls in the beautiful over-the-shoulder pass for a 24-yard reception to the Browns nine-yard line. After a review, three-yard run and throwaway pass, Dalton finds an open Sanu on third and six for the touchdown, giving Cincinnati a 14-13 lead with 11:49 remaining in the second.
Tecmo predicted this by the way. I love that lady... Spot on since 1991— Whodeyfans.com (@WhoDeyFans) November 17, 2013
After the Bengals forced a three-and-out with over 10 minutes remaining in the second quarter...
That's four straight possessions by the Browns without a first down.— Josh Kirkendall (@CincyJungle) November 17, 2013
The Inconsistent Dalton effect.
Dalton completed only two of his first six passes, including two interceptions -- one of which was returned for a touchdown. After that, he completed four of his next five passes with two touchdown throws.
Second punt block leads to a Tony Dye touchdown
As intermittent rain peaks through the inconsistent winds, the customary wild back-and-forth in a Bengals and Browns contest has slowed during a hectic second quarter.
Until the five minute mark in the second quarter.
Once Cleveland's possession stalled on a third down incomplete (forced by a decent pass rush put on by Dre Kirkpatrick), the Browns call their punt team. Linebacker Jayson DiManche slips through the line of scrimmage to block Christian Yount's punt at Cleveland's 47-yard line. After a scrum for the football, Tony Dye recovers the football and returns it 24 yards for the touchdown, giving Cincinnati a 21-13 lead with 4:35 remaining in the second.
Vontaze Burfict touchdown gives the Bengals a 28-13 lead
Momentum is clearly banging the drum of awesome for Cincinnati. After DiManche's block that led to a Tony Dye touchdown, the Browns have second and 13 from their own 17-yard line with 2:55 remaining. Jason Campbell checks down to Chris Ogbonnaya, who catches the football out of the backfield. Vontaze Burfict lowered a shoulder, dislodging the football from the running back. Burfict scooped up the football and returned the recovery 13 yards for the touchdown.
Adam Jones punt return leads to Mike Nugent field goal
For some reason, Browns tight end Jordan Cameron caught the football for a no-gain on third and 13 with 42 seconds remaining in the first half. Instead of staying in bounds, Cameron allows the clock to stop by going out of bounds on Terence Newman's hit.
Adam Jones hauled in the punt, spun around and found a lane down the left sidelines for a 27 yards return to the Browns 32-yard line. A handful of complete passes later, Mike Nugent converted the 41-yard field goal with six seconds remaining in the first half.
The weather arrives
After Josh Gordon beat Dre Kirkpatrick for a 74-yard touchdown to cut into Cincinnati's lead 31-20 midway through the third quarter, the rains began to fall. Despite failing to gain a first down on a Giovani Bernard three yard gain, the Bengals were given a fresh set of downs after the Browns were called for off-sides. A 15-yard Tyler Eifert reception later, the Bengals were unable to secure a first down and Kevin Huber carried a punt into the endzone with 5:04 remaining in the third.
However, with the weather came Cincinnati's eventual victory. Jason Campbell floated a weather-induced football to Reggie Nelson for an interception with 4:21 remaining in the third, following that up with a three-and-out while Cincinnati's offense polled together a run-heavy seven-play drive that resulted in Andy Dalton's third touchdown and a Bengals 38-20 lead with 11:50 remaining in the game.
George Iloka: Laid on the field for a moment during Chris Ogbonnaya's 43-yard run in the first quarter. Quickly returned.
Giovani Bernard (ribs): Midway through the second quarter, Bernard remained on the turf after a tackle on a running back screen. The team announced soon after that he had suffered rib injury, but he eventually returned.
Dre Kirkpatrick (shin): Suffered the injury late in the second quarter, but returned by the start of the third quarter.
Alex Smith (hip): After suffering a hip injury in the second quarter, Smith eventually returned to score a fourth quarter touchdown.
Brandon Thompson: Left the game at some point in the second quarter for the locker room. He was back in the game by the third quarter.
Clint Boling (knee): Was on the field for a minute with around nine minutes remaining in the fourth. The team announced that his return is questionable with a knee.
Kyle Cook (thigh): Cook suffered a thigh injury midway through the fourth and was listed as probable.
Vontaze Burfict: After forcing an incomplete on a huge hit on a Browns receiver, Burfict remained on the turf for several minutes. As he jogged off the field, the right arm remained limp on his side while he flexed his hand. He was back in the game one play later.