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What We Learned: Bengals vs. Browns in Battle of Ohio Part II

The Battle of Ohio had lots of hype and not a whole lot of competition. Must like Part I, the rematch was a blowout, this time in favor of the Good Guys. In a game where the Bengals had a lot to prove, we learned a lot.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Jeremy Hill is a stud and should have been named the lead back sooner

Apparently Jeremy Hill knew what he was talking about a few weeks back when we all criticized him for his comment about how the Browns were "worse than I thought they were." Hill was simply a man amongst boys on Sunday and with Hill toting the ball, this offense will be tough to stop, regardless of how Dalton plays. Hill looks like the throwback "Bell Cow" type back that has become nearly extinct in the NFL.

Giovani Bernard excelled in his role

I still believe Bernard can be a number one back, but I believe he will excel as a compliment back to a guy like Hill. Sunday was a perfect example. Hill and Bernard combined for 255 yards. What I would love to see is Bernard used more in the slot as a receiver - get all your playmakers on the field. Bernard is so dangerous in space and having he and Hill on the field at the same time would be a nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators.

Hue Jackson used the game plan he should have used in their first matchup

We said it going into the Week 10 Thursday night game, the Bengals should run, run and run against the Browns. They didn't, and we saw the result. Well, Hue got the message and he brought a different game plan to the rematch and it worked to levels which Hue couldn't have even dreamed. Hill got 148 yards at a staggering 5.9 per pop. Bernard came in for another 79 yards at 5.3 per pop. Hell, Rex Burkhead got in on the action with 14 at 4.7 per pop. When the dust settled, Hue's game plan resulted in 244 rushing yards, three touchdowns, a 5.4 YPA and nearly 39 minutes of possession. You aren't going to lose with numbers like that.

Bengals won under the big lights

Sunday was an "Unofficial" primetime game in which the Bengals convincingly dismantled a division rival in a game many thought they would lose. Sure, it wasn't on Thursday, Sunday night or Monday night, but after the announcement that Johnny Manziel would start, all week long the talk was about Johnny Manziel and his matchup with the Bengals. So much so that Fox changed their coverage and about 200 million Americans got to see the show - your welcome "Murica!" - so in my books, that is winning a big game where most/if not all of America was paying attention.

That defense and that run game can win in January

The run game wasn't the only dominant unit on the field Sunday. The defense resembled the Bengals' top five defense of 2013 and put together its most dominating performance of the year. A strong run game, a good defense and a good time of possession advantage is a recipe for success in the playoffs - a recipe the Bengals have not had the past three seasons. Certainly Johnny Manziel is no Peyton Manning, and they will have their work cut out for them this week, but if the Bengals can run the football and play defense the way they did on Sunday, they can beat anyone.

Brandon Thompson is clearly the Bengals second best defensive tackle

Brandon Thompson is a solid NFL defensive tackle and should be Geno Atkins' running mate for the majority of defensive snaps. On Sunday, Thompson put together his most dominant performance of his young career and seemed to live in the Browns backfield. If Thompson can play like that, he and Atkins will cause troubles for any quarterback, can clog the running lanes and force the quarterback into the arms of guys like Carlos Dunlap and Wallace Gilberry. When the Bengals get that kind of push up the middle, the defense will play well.

Andy Dalton did not play well and has to play better if the Bengals want to win in January

Dalton just looked off. He missed Green on what should have been a deep touchdown. He missed Sanu on what should have been another touchdown. And, if not for a poor throw to Hewitt, Hewitt might have still been running. If the Bengals can run the ball like they did Sunday, they just need Dalton to be solid and they can beat anyone. However, that effort by Dalton on Sunday is what scares Bengals fans from coast to coast come primetime and playoff time. In Dalton's defense, I didn't like the pass plays on Sunday and thought there were a lot of low percentage throws, but Dalton has to capitalize when he has the opportunity. If Dalton had an average game, the Bengals would have won 50-0 on Sunday.

Dre Kirkpatrick is putting together a solid season

Kirkpatrick has taken a lot of heat from fans and I think it comes unfairly. He is healthy in 2014 and has been a Pro Bowl level gunner on special teams and has played well every time he has filled in on defense. With Terrence Newman likely done after this season, I would like to see both Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard play more often.

The Bengals may be better off winning a wildcard spot

The Bengals actually have a better record on the road (5-2) than they do at home (4-2-1).  The bigger issue, they are playing better and look more comfortable and confident on the road (see games in New Orleans, Houston and Cleveland), not to mention, they are in the midst of a four game road win streak. As such, they may be better off as a wild card. For a team that went 8-0 at home last year, that may sound odd, but this year they are playing tight at home and have yet to look good in a win at home since Week 3 (Tennessee). In recent memory, there have been many Super Bowl winners who were wild card teams and played the entire playoffs on the road (2012 Ravens, 2010 Packers,  2006 Steelers).

I enjoyed the Bengals flashing the money sign...but it got old

Once was funny. Twice, ok. After that it got old, especially given the score. The most irritating one was Rey Maualuga's because it cost his team. I loved the edge the defense (especially Maualuga) played with and want them to keep that up...just don't cross the line and get penalized for it.

Ryan Hewitt can offer this team more than Jermaine Gresham

During the preseason, I developed a "Man Crush" on Ryan Hewitt. I think many Bengals fans (and CJ writers) are beginning to see why. Ryan Hewitt has played very well at the fullback position, but in the preseason (and in college) we saw this kid can contribute in the passing game as well. I have been surprised at how little they have used him up until this point, but maybe the coaches are starting to see what this kid can offer. What I will tell you is this, Jermaine Gresham will not be back in stripes in 2015 and Ryan Hewitt will be a big reason why.

I would have cut Jermaine Gresham yesterday

I am done with Gresham. I am never going to say how much pain someone is or is not in, but according to reports, Gresham's decision to not play has caused some irritation inside the organization. But, what I wouldn't stand for is his childish spat with Dave Lapham after the game...twice! And once while Lap was interviewing his head coach. Let me ask you this: If someone is talking to your boss, would you interrupt them, let alone interrupt their conversation to confront the other person? If you did, you wouldn't have a job very long. What it shows is a lack of respect for his boss. On an afternoon where his teammates had their biggest win of the season, rather than celebrate with his team, Gresham was worried about what someone said about him and decided to take attention away from his teammates to "make it about him." That is a guy that doesn't "Get it" and is a guy I wouldn't want on my team or in my locker room. Now, combine that with his penchant for fumbling, dropping passes, jumping offsides, holding and questionable dedication to the team? He would be off my team, or at a minimum, deactivated and told to stay away from the team - see Keyshawn Johnson. The Bengals are in a fight for the playoffs and I'd get him away from an otherwise good locker room.

Johnny Manziel may be a good quarterback one day, but a lot must change in his game

I don't believe Manziel will be a successful NFL quarterback. I am on the record saying as much. It has nothing to do with his athletic ability. The kid does have raw athletic ability and in terms of skills, he has skills that can make him successful - if he can learn to become a pro. I don't think he has the attitude and commitment to become a pro, but no matter what, if he wants to stay in the NFL, he has to learn that what he did in college will not work in the pros. Certain aspects can be utilized, but he must learn to become a pocket passer and only rely on his broken playmaking ability as a last resort - see Ben Roethlisberger. If Manziel does not learn this, he will have a short stay in the NFL and will just be another name on the Browns' quarterback carousel.

The officiating in NFL games is frustrating as a fan - it must be maddening as a player or coach

It has gotten to the point where I look at the screen for a flag on every play. Seriously. I thought the game was poorly officiated, again, and both teams were hurt/helped by the officials. I know I am not the only one saying this and I just hope the NFL is listening to fans. The flags are getting ridiculous. I am all for safety and for making the game more exciting, but the way officials are calling games, defense is essentially being legislated out of the game.