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Bengals vs Browns: Cleveland dominating in 24-3 win over Cincinnati

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The Cincinnati Bengals played to the same tune that's defined them for the past decade. When the lights come on, they become predictably horrible. Are we surprised? No. This is business as usual. We should just accept it. The Bengals have.

John Grieshop

I'm pissed off.

This isn't some narcissistic-based anger from a fan that believes that he deserves something. We breathe, eat, drink and remain ridiculously loyal to this franchise. When we're presented with an opportunity to say, "hey, check this out", these professional athletes predictably embarrass themselves in unbelievably new ways.

It almost feels like this organization has maximized an inflated ego after three consecutive postseason runs without any motivation to improve. We've reached the postseason in three of the last four years, we'll stick with what we're doing because it works. In fact, they've regressed defensively and have gotten much, much worse on offense. Blame injuries, lack of development, or poor coaching... I'm not sure if Vontaze Burfict, Leon Hall, Marvin Jones, Tyler Eifert, or Giovani Bernard would have changed this outcome. Especially when your quarterback statistically rivaled some of the most challenged quarterback performances in recent memory.

Either way, this team is not suited for the postseason as they currently are. They've had their asses handed to them in New England and Indianapolis, shanked a 36-yard field goal that affixed a third numerical on Cincinnati's record and lost to Cleveland (one of the biggest insults for a Paul Brown created organization).

It was a collective-effort... yes.

Yet, Andy Dalton's propensity for interceptions were there, just like they are in every primetime (and/or) postseason game. They'll always be there.

Dalton completed five of 16 passes in the first half, generating 38 yards and an interception that eventually led to a Browns touchdown and 7-0 lead. Looking forward to the Bengals and Broncos later this season? That should be a f**king blast. And when Dalton's not throwing interceptions, he's nailing wide-open free safeties, who acquired Cincinnati's sense of the dropsies in the middle of the field. The offensive line was... offensive. Tight ends are stopping their routes short -- though kudos to Jermaine Gresham for gutting out a performance after obviously hurting his knee. Wide receivers weren't getting open and when they were, they're dropping the football with the look of defeat clearly expressed on their faces.

It was collective yes, but we could easily go into a rant about Andy Dalton, who completed 30.3 percent of his passes (10 of 33) -- worst since 2012 in the NFL, and 2000 in franchise history. His passer rating is 2.0. Two... point... oh. However, I don't have the energy to deal with the apologists who toss statistics that compare to Peyton Manning... because that totally f**king means something. On the other hand, he's a fraction (more accurately 1/22nd) of the problem here.

It was only last month that team-leader Andrew Whitworth disregarded Cincinnati's characteristically embarrassing performances during primetime games. Tracking the team's success since 2011 (when this iteration of the roster came together), the Bengals are 2-9 in prime-time games and in the postseason. This offense can't protect the football... or attempt a pass that an eight-foot giant could catch. Yet, the defense collapses away from every defining measure.

Whitworth confidently explained, prior to week five, that the whole primetime stage-fright that NOW defines this team is a story created by the media.

"That's one of those things that I think honestly is more of a national media, outside media thing to hold over us. It's like somebody wants to find some way to doubt you when the truth is, we've won our division, we've gotten better every single year, our record has gotten better every single year. So what's something you can come up with that's going to say 'this team is not there?' That's the one thing they can look for and say is that we can't play in prime-time. To me, people are always going to find a way to try and put a team down. That's what people look for. We don't really listen to it. But we just need to go out and play and have fun and beat the New England Patriots and go about our business."

Days later, the Bengals were de-molecularized 43-16 to the New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football.

Thursday's game against the Browns strummed every note in Cincinnati's disappointment. Andy Dalton anticipates Jermaine Gresham's crossing route during Cincinnati's first possession. Predictably the tight end stops and Dalton throws an interception that leads to a Browns touchdown. The football gods say, GIFTS. Here's a defensive pass interference on fourth down. Or a fumble on a punt. GIFTS.

Before you knew it, the Cleveland Browns took a 14-3 lead and the onslaught of predictability ensued. Even when things were going well, they ended badly. Running back Jeremy Hill evades a tackle, breaks another and is determined to make something big happen to revert the depressing first quarter and...... fumble. Browns football. It didn't matter whom. Everyone faced the gauntlet of embarrassment Thursday.

The Bengals opened another enthusiastic primetime evening with three consecutive runs by Jeremy Hill, gaining six, two and two for ten yards combined and a first down. Positive. Great gameplan. This Andrew Whitworth pregame speech, demanding perfection and pride, worked. Nah, not really. Following a poorly thrown pass to A.J. Green (double-covered)... seemingly on purpose because of the lack of a passing window... Dalton targeted tight end Jermaine Gresham. Gresham ran a crossing pattern but stopped his route. Dalton, anticipating the route to cross the field, threw ahead of Gresham where linebacker Craig Robinson returned the interception 15 yards to the Bengals 18-yard line. Cleveland called four straight runs, capped by a Ben Tate four-yard touchdown. The Browns are off to a quick 7-0 lead with 10:45 remaining in the first quarter.

The Bengals offense, by middle of the first quarter (after two possessions, mind you) had only generated 26 yards on ten plays with two first downs earned. The first possession ended with an interception (leading to a Browns 7-0 lead). The second, a punt that went 60 yards, was returned by Jim Leonard.

After returning it 11 yards, James Wright approached from behind and punched the football out. Recovered by Shawn Williams on Cleveland's 32-yard line, Cincinnati's offense resumes from Cleveland's 32-yard line.

Collectively another miserable possession, which included a badly missed wide-open Mohamed Sanu in the endzone, incomplete throws to Gresham and Greg Little, eventually setting up a fourth and ten. Unable to bend the football around light and time, Sanu is unable to secure the fourth down pass.

Defensive pass interference.

Ah, great. Luck. No gain. Incomplete. After a 12-men in the huddle penalty, Dalton runs five miles deep into Kentucky before throwing the football away.

Mike Nugent converts the 43-yard field goal with 6:23 remaining in the first quarter, reducing Cleveland's 7-3 lead to four points.

Then it snowballs from there.

INACTIVE

BENGALS BROWNS
RB Giovani Bernard TE Jordan Cameron
CB Leon Hall WR Andrew Hawkins
LB Rey Maualuga CB Pierre Desir
LB Vontaze Burfict OL Vinston Painter
RT Andre Smith WR Rodney Smith
WR Dane Sanzenbacher RB Glenn Winston
DE Will Clarke DB Johnson Bademosi