The Cincinnati Bengals needed something to get them going in the right direction for 2017, and what better way is there to get back on track than facing the Cleveland Browns? Cincinnati dominated Cleveland on their home turf to the tune of 31-7, and feelings are much more positive than they were seven short days ago.
Here are the winners and losers from the Bengals’ 31-7 win over the Browns.
Giovani Bernard: What a game from the supposed "specialty back." Even though Joe Mixon received the lion’s share of the carries once again, Bernard had 12 carries and has found a nice niche in Bill Lazor’s offense.
After catching a touchdown pass last week against the Packers, Bernard struck again with a 61-yard receiving score before the half. Lazor seems to have a good idea as to how to best utilize each of the team’s talented backs.
Andy Dalton: The embattled Bengals’ signal-caller finished the first half with 17-of-18 passing, with 215 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. He carried that momentum through the rest of the day, missing just five total passes and tossing four touchdowns.
At one point, Dalton hit 16 straight passes into the third quarter, which was a stark contrast from the previous three games. It appears as if Lazor has made a substantial difference from Ken Zampese.
The backup tight ends: Any time you have to fill in for a Pro Bowl player starting in front of you, it’s not an enviable spot. Even Adam Archuleta, who was the color analyst on the afternoon, noted Tyler Kroft’s abilities to extend drives against Cleveland. He finished as the team’s leading receiver, with six catches for 68 yards and two scores in relief of Eifert.
Meanwhile, C.J. Uzomah had an athletic 11-yard reception, showing that the Bengals can sometimes get by without No. 85. Kudos to Dalton, who distributed the ball well to a multitude of weapons.
Randy Bullock: After missing a critical third quarter kick against the Packers, Bullock had a nice bounce-back afternoon. He hit a 41-yarder in the second half, along with all of his extra points. As of now, he isn’t the Achilles Heel that Mike Nugent was last season.
Bill Lazor: The Bengals didn’t have the aid of a pick-six this week, but Dalton looked incredibly comfortable against a foe in which he has largely dominated during his career. Even though the Bengals are 1-1 under his watch, Lazor has come up with a successful scheme for his personnel, so far.
Jake Fisher: After being benched last week against Green Bay, Fisher had some more early struggles against the Browns. It got cleaned up as Lazor altered the game plan, but the offensive line continues to be a problem for Cincinnati.
Andre Smith entered the game last week and again this week for both Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi. Cincinnati kept the pocket relatively clean this week (hence the huge margin of victory and Dalton’s big day), but Fisher needs to step up, going forward.
The Fans: For The Queen City faithful, this is just what the doctor ordered for a rebound from a three-game skid. However, even though the Bengals looked like their 2015 selves, this was an unwatchable game full of mistakes and bad mistakes by both teams. The difference was Cincinnati capitalized on Cleveland’s mistakes.
The pass rush: Even though the Bengals’ defense was stout in multiple facets on Sunday, the still couldn’t regularly get to the nimble DeShone Kizer. Yes, the Bengals had two sacks against the Browns, but it was inconsistent on the afternoon.
Then again, Paul Guenther did run a bunch of contain calls to limit Kizer’s running ability, playing to the 31-7 win. However, if it weren’t for an incredible number of dropped passes by the Browns, this result could have been far worse.
William Jackson III: After notching his first career interception and a subsequent touchdown in Green Bay, Jackson had a little bit of a rough day in Cleveland. He had two penalties on the afternoon, including a defensive holding in the fourth quarter before the game ended.
Who were your biggest winners and losers from the game?