The Battle of Ohio began as two winless teams took the field. Fans of both sides were hoping for a win, but knowing a loss was still a possibility. The Cincinnati Bengals were looking forward to having another week with the new offensive coordinator, Bill Lazor. After making strides against the Packers, surely the Browns would be an easier challenge.
This proved to be true as the Bengals crushed the Browns 31-7.
Andy Dalton gave us his best performance of the season. He was virtually unstoppable against the Browns defense, completing passes all over the field. Dalton went 25 out of 30 for 286 yards. His four touchdowns reflect the offense the Bengals were hoping to get from Lazor. Dalton did not throw an interception and recorded a 146 rating.
The defense was rock solid, keeping the Browns to zero points. Vontaze Burfict returned from his suspension and reminded everyone why he is such a valuable player. He was making plays all over the field and seemed to find the ball on every single play. The young defensive backs also gave the defense an excellent contribution. William Jackson and Darqueze Dennard helped make big plays (including a sack), and Clayton Fejedelem made a crucial red zone interception.
The game got off to a terrible start on offense, as Dalton fumbled the ball on the Bengals’ second play from scrimmage. Emmanuel Ogbah worked against right tackle Jake Fisher and swatted the ball from Dalton’s hand. The Browns recovered on the Bengals’ 30-yard line, but were able to do nothing. Nick Vigil and the defense were able to force a field goal on 3rd and 10 to set the Browns up for a 48-yard field goal. Zane Gonzalez missed the attempt, and the Bengals were able to get off scotch free after the fumble.
After trading punts, Adam Jones returned the Browns punt 40 yards to the Cleveland 35-yard line. Dalton connected with Tyler Boyd for nine yards, but Jeremy Hill fumbled on the next play. Ogbah knocked the ball out of Hill’s hands before he could cross the line to gain on 2nd and 1. Russell Bodine recovered it and the Bengals kept going. Dalton dropped the ensuing snap, but he threw a strike to Tyler Kroft for the first down.
Dalton, Hill, and Giovani Bernard all carried the ball to move the offense to the 10-yard line. On a 3rd and six to begin the second quarter, Dalton threw a deep fade to A.J. Green for a seven-yard touchdown. Randy Bullock nailed the extra point, and the Bengals took a 7-0 lead.
Deshone Kizer and the Browns looked poised to answer the score with, but it their momentum quickly came to a halt. After reaching the Bengals’ 16-yard line, Kizer’s pass to Kenny Britt bounced off of the receiver’s chest and right into the hands of Clayton Fejedelem for the safety’s first career interception. What would have been a 1st and goal for the Browns turned into another chance for the Bengals’ offense.
Starting from their own 12-yard line, the Bengals kept moving the sticks. As they approached the goal-line, Dalton connected with Green for 25 yards. A horse-collar tackle added an extra 15 yards to the play, and the Bengals were able to capitalize. Two plays later, Dalton zipped the ball to Kroft for a three-yard score. Bullock converted the extra point, turning Fejedelem’s interception into a 14 point lead with 2:33 left in the half.
The Bengals forced a three-and-out and took over at their own 17-yard line with 1:40 left in the half. After two straight 11-yard passes to Kroft, Dalton dumped it off to Bernard who ran untouched for 61-yard and the score. Bullock added the extra point as the Bengals now led 21-0 with 40 seconds remaining. The Browns were unable to do anything with the limited time they had as the second quarter came to an end.
After two disappointing drives in the first quarter, the Bengals’ second-quarter offense was unstoppable. Dalton completed 17 of his 18 passes for 215 yards, three touchdowns, and a rating of 156. Despite Dalton’s dominance, however, the rushing game was sorely lacking. Mixon, the Bengal’s leading rusher, collected only six yards on five carries as the whole team collected 22 yards on 12 rushes.
The Bengals received the opening kickoff and continued what they started. Dalton threw several incompletions, but he and Hill helped double the Bengals total rushing yards. The drive ended with a 41 yards field goal from Bullock.
Once again, the Browns were forced to punt. Alex Erickson did not have a good return as the Bengals started out on their own 17. However, Mixon, Bernard, and Dalton helped the Bengals find the red zone yet again. Dalton fired a 16-yard pass to Tyler Kroft to score on their fifth straight drive. This was Kroft’s second touchdown of the day, even though he entered the game with only one in his whole career. It was also Dalton’s fourth touchdown on the day, giving Dalton a four-touchdown game for the first time since 2013. Bullock scored the extra point and the Bengals had the Browns in a headlock, up 31-0 with 3:37 left in the third quarter.
After replacing Kizer, Kevin Hogan led the Browns offense down to the red zone. Hogan connected several times with Ricardo Lewis to take the offense all the way to the one-yard line. The Bengals wouldn’t go down without a fight, though, as the Browns snapped the ball six times from inside the ten-yard line before Duke Johnson finally put the Browns on the scoreboard. Gonzalez converted the extra point.
His touchdown was too little too late as the Cleveland ended up going down 31-7.
Nothing cures your team’s offensive woes like playing the Browns.