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Bengals’ second half comeback falls short; suffer first loss vs. Browns since 2014

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Damarious Randall was right, the Bengals got beaten handily by their in-state rivals.

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NFL: Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals got utterly outplayed at home for the second time in three weeks as they drop below .500 after losing to the Browns 35-20 in Week 12.

Andy Dalton was injured, though Jeff Driskel filled in admirably. It’s unclear if the starting quarterback’s absence will extend past this week.

Here’s how it all went down quarter-by-quarter:

Fourth quarter:

Still down by 21 points, the Jeff Driskel-led offense leaned on Mixon and Boyd to try and spark a miracale comeback. Mixon had a key 17-yard run and Boyd hauled in a huge 22-yard reception before backup left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi allowed a 12-yard sack to Myles Garrett on a third-and-10. On fourth-and-22, Driskel was intercepted on a prayer of a throw but it was negated by a roughing the passer penalty on Genard Avery.

Three plays later, Driskel sneaks into the end zone from two yards out, but Randy Bullock missed the extra point. The Browns now lead 35-20.

The Browns offense has failed to get in any sort of groove this half and the Bengals were still alive because of it. Following yet another Browns punt, Driskel led the Bengals’ offense all the way to the 13-yard line after a fourth-and-six conversion through the air to Giovani Bernard and a couple acrobatic catches from the rookie Auden Tate. Unfortunately, Driskel went to Tate again on another fourth down and the pass was wide left due to the tight coverage. The Browns take over on downs with just over three minutes remaining, still up 35-20.

The Bengals had one final shot to make something happen, but an illegal shift penalty negated a miraculous hail mary attempt to Boyd. The Bengals turned it over on downs the following play and subsequently ran out the clock.

Third quarter:

Four plays. It took four plays for the following to happen:

  • Billy Price snaps the ball over Dalton’s head and the Browns recover the fumble.
  • Browns take over and Mayfield throws a six-yard touchdown to Darren Fells.

On the bad snap, Dalton also hurt his hand whilst trying to recover the loose ball and is being evaluated in the locker room. He was ruled questionable to return and has now been declared out with a right thumb injury.

Backup quarterback Jeff Driskel is now in the game as the Bengals trail 35-7.

Dalton was not the only one to have gotten hurt in this game. Left tackle Jake Fisher left the game with a back injury and cornerback Tony McRae suffered a scary concussion. Despite the injuries piling up, the Bengals managed to bring the deficit back down to 21 after forcing the Browns first punt of the game. Driskel led a nine-play 75-yard drive that ended with a 28-yard strike to Tyler Boyd.

The score was Driskel’s first of his career and Boyd’s sixth of the season. The Bengals now trail 35-14.

Halftime update

In case you were wondering, the Browns 28-7 lead over the Bengals is exactly what it feels like.

Aside from a makeshift two-minute drill, the Bengals have been getting embarrassed in their second straight home game, and their defensive issues haven’t seen to gone anywhere with Marvin Lewis running things on that side of the ball.

The 21-point lead the Browns have is also their largest lead through two quarters since the last year the Bengals won a playoff game.

Hopefully the Bengals have some momentum going into the second half with the ball, but we’re not too confident.

Second quarter:

The Bengals unsurprisingly punted following Callaway’s touchdown grab and the Browns went right back to work. On a 12-play 96-yard drive, Mayfield connected with tight end David Njoku three times for 49 yards, including a six-yard score which required a herculean after-the-catch effort from Njoku. The Browns are up 21-0 with over nine minutes left to play in the half.

As if things could get any worse, Dalton overthrew Cody Core and safety Damarious Randall of all people intercepted him. Randall of course is the one who claimed the Bengals are “getting their ass beat” if A.J. Green didn’t play. He even handed the ball to his former coach Hue Jackson.

Green is watching from the sidelines as Randall is keeping his word.

On the ensuing possession, Mayfield led yet another double-digit play touchdown drive, this time finding Chubb on a wheel route over safety Brandon Wilson. The Browns now lead 28-0 before the two-minute warning.

Somehow, some way, the Bengals managed to put points up on the board before half time. On a nine-play 75-yard drive, Andy Dalton scrambled for a 21-yard gain on second-and-20 with 1:42 left in the half. On the next play, Joe Mixon ran for a 32-yard gain to put the Bengals at the Browns’ 10-yard line. Four plays and two end zone targets for Auden Tate later, Dalton found John Ross for his fifth touchdown of the season and the Bengals are on the board 28-7.

The Browns got the ball back with 32 seconds remaining, but fail to get into scoring range. They lead 28-7 at the half.

First quarter:

Much like last week, the Bengals defense allowed a rookie quarterback to drive down the length of the field for a touchdown on their first series of the game. Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield completed his first six passes of the game for 71 yards and handed it off to rookie running back Nick Chubb for a one-yard score to cap off the drive. The Browns lead early 7-0.

Despite converting a fourth-and-one near midfield, the Bengals offense could not match the Browns touchdown drive and trotted out Randy Bullock for a 54-yard field goal, which was blocked by Cleveland. The Browns took over at their own 44-yard line and wasted no time to out another touchdown on the board. Mayfield led a five-play drive that ended with a 13-yard Mayfield touchdown to rookie receiver Antonio Callaway, giving the Browns a 14-0 lead.

The extensive history between the Bengals and Browns is no secret. Sunday will mark the 90th time these two teams will meet dating back to 1970. Back then, the Bengals were just a couple seasons old as they were founded by the legendary Paul Brown in 1968, who left his original team in Cleveland to start a new one in the opposite part of Ohio.

Due to the nature of their inception, the Bengals might as well be considered the Browns little brother. However, the Bengals have been far from that in recent years.

Cincinnati has won seven straight games against Cleveland, but there seems to have been a shift for the one of the NFL’s oldest franchises. Since letting go of head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley a month ago, the Browns have been noticeably better, and for the first time in what seems like forever, their talent is being properly utilized.

They have several rookies who look like they could be the start of a fine foundation for the future. Nick Chubb has recently stepped into the spotlight at running back after the team traded away Carlos Hyde, and he has really run away with the job. Denzel Ward looks like he could become a shutdown corner very soon, and has even had huge games already where the Browns just don’t win it if he isn’t playing.

Of course it all starts with their their first-overall pick. Quarterback Baker Mayfield has made the Browns front office look like geniuses since the common perception told the organization to look else where for a franchise quarterback. Cleveland took a risk against conventional wisdom by taking Mayfield, but he has shown he can be that leader that this franchise has been searching for.

The Bengals are still the team with the better record in this matchup though. They have suffered a great many injuries lately, but that excuse really doesn’t cover just how bad they’ve shown to be in their past five games. With a mark of 1-4 over that stretch, the Bengals have lost ground in the division with losses to the Steelers and Ravens and the embarrassed themselves against the Chiefs and Saints, who looked like they were playing a different sport.

In past seasons it has been games against the Browns that help get the Bengals back on track. This year both teams have plenty to prove. A loss for the Bengals may knock them too far back in the Wild Card race to recover, and another divisional win for the Browns could start a shift in power inside the AFC North.

How to watch the Bengals host the Browns on Sunday:

Game: Cincinnati Bengals (5-5) vs Cleveland Browns (3-6-1)

Date/Time: Nov. 25th, 2018 at 1:00 p.m. EST

Location: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH

Streaming: Fubo TV

Series Leader: Bengals lead the all-time series 50-39

Streak: Bengals have won the past seven games

Coaches vs. Opponent: Marvin Lewis: (22-8) vs. Gregg Williams (2-0)

Television: The game will air on CBS-TV. In the Bengals’ home region, it will be carried by WKRC-TV (Ch. 12) in Cincinnati, WHIO-TV (Ch. 7) in Dayton and on WKYT-TV (Ch. 27) in Lexington. Broadcasters are Kevin Harlan (play-by-play), Rich Gannon (analyst) and Steve Tasker (sideline reporter).

Radio: The game will air on the Bengals Radio Network, led by Cincinnati flagship stations WLW-AM (700), WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530; all sports) and WEBN-FM (102.7). Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham (analyst).

SB Nation Browns site: Dawgs By Nature

Weather: Low 50’s, Partly Cloudy [NFL weather]

Odds: Bengals open as, -3 [Odds Shark]