The Bengals dropped their first game against the Browns in four weeks. It’s hard to believe that they had to wait until Week 14 to play a division opponent.
But the Bengals left Cleveland looking just like they did before they beat the Jets. Struggles on offense were coupled with missed tackles and self-inflicted wounds on defense.
Usually teams look their best when they play the Bengals, but that wasn’t the case this week. Baker Mayfield tossed two picks and completed less than half of his passes. Odell Beckham Jr. continued to underwhelm, with only two catches for 39 yards. The defense didn’t even look that good, they just played a horrendous offense.
The difference in the game for the Browns’ really was Nick Chubb, who rushed for 7.1 yards per carry.
On the Bengals’ end, the offense was just plain bad. Between the interception that sailed through Auden Tate’s hands, the bad blocking on the fourth down QB draw, and offensive penalties, the Bengals’ could have won without all the self inflicted wounds.
Of course, we say that almost every week.
Here’s what we learned from Bengals vs. Browns part one.
Joe Mixon is playing some of his best football
Joe Mixon had a career day against the Browns, which caps off the best five-game stretch of the season that he has had. Mixon ran for 146 yards and received another 40 yards. He averaged 6.8 yards per carry and 13.3 per reception. Mixon accounted for over 40 percent of the Bengals yardage, and he scored their only touchdown.
It’s also worth noting that the Browns also rushed for 146 yards. Their whole team rushed for the same amount of yards that Mixon gained by himself.
Mixon was so dominant during the game that the Bengals didn’t abandon the run game even when trailing by two scores. Mixon had three carries inside the 14-yard line on their second-to-last drive. They weren’t concerned with scoring as quickly as possible; they were concerned about just gaining the yards in the first place.
The Bengals have had a lot of things go wrong this year. Fixing the running game is a huge bright spot.
Germaine Pratt is showing improvement
Germaine Pratt had a tough go of it when he first got some playing time, but since he’s been the the full-time MIKE linebacker he’s been steadily improving.
In Week 14, Pratt led the team with 8 combined tackles, which is the most of his young career. He didn’t look lost like he did early on in the year, and whenever he didn’t make the tackle, he was still nearby.
Part of Pratt’s success has also allowed Nick Vigil over at SAM. In the passing game, Vigil had two passes defended and an amazing interception in the first quarter.
The Bengals’ linebacking corps was a total liability last season season. They drafted Pratt in the third round last year, and it’s paying dividends. With a little more work, this unit could actually be something.
Andy Dalton is...exactly who we thought he was
Andy Dalton looked great against the Jets in his return from the bench. But given that we had been subjected to three games of Ryan Finley and that the Jets’ secondary was depleted, Dalton’s performance really wasn’t that great.
Against the Browns, Dalton completed 57.9 percent of his passes for 262, not touchdowns, and one interception. That’s a very “meh” stat line, especially considering that 75 of those yards came in garbage time and the Browns were missing their best defender.
Dalton didn’t make any spectacular throws, but he had some pretty bad ones. He missed Auden Tate several times, and missed on just about every pass he threw in the red zone.
You could even argue that Alex Erickson looked like a better passer than Dalton did.
The truth of the matter is that Dalton is not the problem with the Bengals, but he’s not the solution either. If the Bengals are going to contend at any time in the near future, they’re going to need to upgrade that position.