The stakes were high as the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns met for the second 2017 Battle of Ohio. The Browns were looking to win their first game of the year while the Bengals were still hoping to remain in the playoff race.
Rookie running back Joe Mixon had the best game of his career. He ran for 114 yards and received another 51. His previous high was against the Packers with 62 yards. Mixon finally showed the promise the Bengals have been waiting for since he was drafted.
Fellow rookie Carl Lawson also had a great day, notching 1.5 sacks to entrench himself as the rookie leader in sacks. Edging Browns rookie Myles Garrett in that department, Lawson is becoming the steal of the 2017 NFL draft.
The Bengals’ run defense started flat on their faces as Isaiah Crowell, Duke Johnson, and DeShone Kizer each had runs of 10 yards or more on the opening drive. The Browns didn’t face a third down until a red zone penalty by David Njoku backed them up to a second-and-21 situation. The Bengals did not break, however, and rookie kicker Zane Gonzalez settled for a 27-yard field goal. Despite leading nearly the whole game in the Week 4 matchup, the Bengals trailed the Browns after a 10-play, 61 yard drive. Seven of the Browns’ plays were runs, totaling 50 yards on the ground to start the game.
The Bengals received the ensuing kickoff down 3-0 with 9:17 remaining in the first quarter. Joe Mixon was not to be outdone by the Browns’ running game and rumbled for 29 yards on his first three carries. Andy Dalton and Giovani Bernard added runs of three yards and eleven yards, respectively, to give the Bengals 43 rushing yards a week after being held to only 49 collectively. Dalton finished off the drive by throwing a play-action dart to Tyler Boyd from eight yards out for the score. Boyd already had a crucial third down catch to extend the drive, and three plays later went on the catch his first touchdown of the season and put the Bengals out in front. Randy Bullock’s extra point extended the Bengals’ lead to 7-3 with 5:12 left in the quarter.
#Bengals rushes of 9 or more yards in a game this season:— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) November 26, 2017
At Cle: 4
At Green Bay: 4
First drive vs CLE today: 3
On the next possession, the Browns kept the drive going with a 44-yard pass to Corey Coleman, which was the longest pass of Kizer’s short career. The Bengals still had a hard time stopping the Browns’ running backs in both the run game and pass game, but a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty kept the Browns from doing any damage. Gonzalez’ 43-yard field goal attempt was wide left, so the Bengals escaped the drive without giving up any points with only 14 seconds left in the quarter.
Mixon gained another 39 total yards on the next seven plays and Dalton converted a third and five by taking off for a 25-yard scramble, the longest run of his career. Seven of the Bengals’ 11 plays were either a run or pass to the rookie running back. He helped the Bengals gain 92 rushing yards in their first two possessions, which was the most in a game since Week 3. The Bengals ran down to the eight-yard line where a Miles Garrett sack forced a Bullock field goal. The kick was good from 31 yards and the Bengals extended their lead to 10-3 with 9:17 remaining in the second quarter.
Cody Kessler came into the game to relieve Kizer, who was evaluated for a concussion. On third down, Carl Lawson and Chris Smith introduced themselves to Kessler to give Lawson an NFL rookie-leading 6.0 sacks on the season. But he wouldn’t be done there! This forced a punt, which was returned by Adam Jones for a huge gain. While it was initially ruled a touchdown, the score was called back due to a block in the back penalty by Cethan Carter. Jones, whose wife had a baby boy last night, had celebrated with a comical fake birth in the endzone, but it ended up being a celebration for nothing.
Still, the return helped the Bengals’ offense set up a Bullock field goal. The kicker knocked his season-long attempt through from 49 yards to give the Bengals a 13-3 lead with 6:12 left in the half.
Kizer was cleared to return, but left the field three plays later after failing to gain a first down. Gonzalez came in to punt after Britton Colquitt evaluated for a concussion due to a hit he took on Jones’ long return. Gonzalez’s ugly punt only went for 16 yards, so the Bengals set up shop on the Browns’ 45-yard line.
Mixon got the Bengals a red zone possession on the next play with a 36-yard reception from Dalton. He gained five more rushing yards before Bullock chipped a 21-yard kick through, elevating the Bengals above the Browns by thirteen points right at the two-minute warning.
Kizer chipped his way down the field with less than two minutes left and all three time outs. The Browns could not get into the end zone, however, so Gonzalez came out to kick a field goal. The rookie kicker got three more points on the board as time expired, as the Bengals still led at halftime 16-6. It was the fifth time in the last six game the Bengals allowed a field goal in the final 30 seconds of the first half of the game.
Even though the Browns trailed by 10 points, they out gained the Bengals with 215 yards to 189.
Most of the Bengals yards came from Mixon, who had 54 rushing yards on 11 carries and 51 receiving yards on three receptions. The Bengals entered this game with the worst rushing offense in the NFL, but Mixon, assisted by Dalton and Bernard, helped the Bengals gain 96 yards on 15 attempts, averaging 6.4 yards a carry. Entering this game, the Bengals averaged a league-worst 3.0 yards per attempt.
Bengals rookie Joe Mixon has 105 all-purpose yards today, just short of his personal best of 109 vs. the Colts.— Katherine Terrell (@Kat_Terrell) November 26, 2017
The Bengals received the ball to open the second half and went right back to Mixon. After only two runs in the second quarter he surpassed his previous career high with 63 rushing yards. A.J. Green only had one catch in the first half but added two more on this drive to get the Bengals to the five yard line. On third-and-goal, Jason McCourty was called for pass interference on Brandon LaFell, setting up another play-action touchdown pass from Dalton. Tyler Kroft scored his first touchdown in Paul Brown Stadium from one yard out to give the Bengals another six points. Bullock’s kick was good and the Bengals were up 23-6 with 10:21 left in the third quarter.
Crowell and Kizer continued to run over the Bengals en route to the red zone. The Bengals had two huge breaks in a holding penalty on Shon Coleman and a dropped touchdown by Corey Coleman. The Browns had to kick a field goal on fourth-and-12, and Gonzalez’ kick cut the Bengals lead down to 23-9 with 4:33 left in the third quarter.
The Bengals and Browns traded punts as each team failed to add to the score. As the third quarter was coming to a close, A.J. Green helped move the sticks with an incredible toe tap on the sideline. While McCourty defended Green really well, Green’s strong hands and toe drag were impossible to stop. Hue Jackson threw the red flag, but ultimately lost the challenge.
The Bengals ended up punting the ball away, but despite the fair catch a the 11-yard line, the Bengals could not hold the Browns into their own red zone. Kizer connected with Kenny Britt on third down for a 38-yard pass to end his streak of of three straight incompletions. Assisted by a fourth down conversion and a 22-yard pass to Rashard Higgins, the Browns made it into the red zone where Kizer would run the ball into the end zone for a three yard touchdown. The Browns were now only down 23-16 with 6:57 left in the fourth quarter.
Lawson added to his sack total by stopping Kizer for his seventh sack of the year. Even though it didn’t stop Kizer from scoring, it game him an even wider margin for the rookie lead.
The Bengals gave the Ball to Mixon again to add to his career day. Mixon and Bernard helped move the ball on the ground, and Jabrill Peppers helped with an unnecessary roughness penalty on Josh Malone. Mixon passed the 100-yard mark for the first time in his NFL career and added a 14-yard touchdown to his highlight reel. The former Sooner took the pitch from Dalton and ran in front of a blocking Clint Boling for the score. With the clock winding down to 2:57, the Bengals were up 30-16.
Joe is the— Jeremy Hill (@JeremyHill33) November 26, 2017
The Bengals would go on to seal the victory by putting up 30+ points against the Browns for the second time this season. The Bengals improve to 5-6 and hope to extend their winning streak against the Steelers next week in order sneak their way into the playoffs.