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Bengals beat Browns 33-23 for first AFC North win

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Joe Mixon and Tyler Boyd became the Bengals’ first 1,000-yard duo since 2004, and the Bengals won their first divisional win since Week 2 of 2018.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals avoided setting a new franchise low with a 33-23 win over the Browns in Week 17.

After struggling in the red zone all year long, the Bengals finally found a cure for their woes. The Bengals scored touchdowns on their first three red zone possessions, and scored at least a field goal on all five.

Joe Mixon led the charge for the Bengals, carrying the ball 26 times for a career-high 168 yards. Mixon outgained Nick Chubb, who only had 41 yards on the day despite entering the game as the league’s leading rusher.

The Browns started off hot, and Baker Mayfield found the endzone after only three plays. Mayfield connected with Damion Ratley for a 46-yard touchdown to take an early lead. With the extra point, the score was 7-0 with 13:32 remaining in the first quarter.

The Bengals didn’t take long to answer, thanks to a 41-yard rumble from Joe Mixon. On the next play, Dalton found C.J. Uzomah in the endzone for a 15-yard touchdown to set up the tie. After Randy Bullock’s extra point, the score was tied at 7 points apiece with 9:56 to go in the quarter.

Thanks to the long run, Mixon became the 6th player in franchise history to record 1,000 rushing yards in back-to-back seasons. It’s even more impressive considering Mixon had just 320 yards through the first half of this season.

Later in the first quarter, the Bengals got a huge break thanks to a Darius Phillips interception, and started with the ball on the Browns’ three-yard line. Mixon finished off from there and lowered his shoulder to get into the end zone with 4:45 left in the opening quarter. For the first time this year, Randy Bullock missed the extra point, but the Bengals still had a season-high 13 first quarter points, leading 13-7.

On the next Bengals’ possession, they were backed up on third-and-14, but Dalton completed his first pass since the Uzomah touchdown to Tyler Boyd for 22 yards. That play put Boyd over 1,000 receiving yards on the season for the second year in a row.

Boyd and Mixon kept the chains moving until the Bengals had first-and-goal on the six-yard line. Dalton dropped back to pass, but was chased out of the pocket and decided to run it in himself. Bullock made the extra point, and the Bengals were up 20-7 with 10:06 left until halftime. The Bengals now had a season-high 20 first-half points.

The former LSU Tigers helped the Browns get back into the game. A pair of passes to Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. took the Browns to the red zone. A Carl Lawson sack ensured the Browns would only get three points, though, as Austin Seibert knocked through a 42-yard field goal. The Browns were now down 20-10 with 6:53 to go in the half.

The Browns weren’t done scoring before halftime. Immediately after the two-minute warning, Mayfield threw a pass up the middle to Landry who took it the rest of the way for a 56-yard touchdown. Seibert missed his extra point, so the Bengals still led 20-16 with 1:52 to go and would hold the lead going into halftime.

The Bengals got the ball at halftime and continued playing like they did in the first half. The offense got all the way down to the 19-yard line before they started getting in their own way. A failed screen, a penalty, and a Mixon fumble nearly took the Bengals out of field goal range. Tyler Eifert got ten yards to make the kick manageable, and Bullock made the 47-yard kick to put the Bengals in front 23-16 with 9:04 left in the third quarter.

The Bengals got the ball back, and John Ross set up the Bengals in the red zone with his second catch of the game. After Ross’ 28-yard gain, the Bengals gave it to Mixon, who only needed two attempts to get the ball in the end zone. After a two-yard score with 14:16 left in the game, the Bengals were up 30-16 following Bullock’s extra point.

The Browns nearly blew their second red zone attempt of the day. Sacks from Lawson and Sam Hubbard nearly took the Browns out of the red zone and forced them to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 20-yard line. Beckham made a spectacular catch for the 20-yard touchdown, and the Browns inched closer, down only 30-23 with 7:16 left in the game.

The Bengals only needed to move the chains and take as much time as they could. They did just that, taking up over five minutes and gaining 54 yards. The drive ended in a 46-yard field goal from Bullock to give the Bengals a two-possession lead, 33-23 with 1:55 left in the game.

B.W. Webb picked off Mayfield on the next drive to stop any attempt at cutting the deficit and put the game on ice.

The Bengals won by a final score of 33-23. Now 2-14, the Bengals avoided what could have been the team’s first ever one-win season.