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Bengals defense can’t make a stop, fall 37-34 to Browns

The Bengals lost yet another close game.

The Bengals played in yet another close game and failed once again to close it out.

Joe Burrow had an unlucky interception, but looked great apart from that one play. He had to play most of the game without his two best offensive linemen, but still reached the 400-yard mark for the first time in his career. A.J Green, Tyler Boyd, and Tee Higgins each had over 70 receiving yards.

Baker Mayfield went off to a rough start, missing on his first five passing attempts. But he got on track right before half time and completed his next 21 passes. His only incompletion in the last 23 attempts in regulation was when he spiked the ball to stop the clock. He ended up with 297 yards and three passing touchdowns, all three of them to his tight ends.

The Bengals started off with the ball, and Burrow looked really good despite throwing an interception in the end zone. The Bengals got the ball back and went right back to the goal line. Burrow took the ball himself on a quarterback sneak. After going six for eight on his first two drives with 77 yards, Burrow’s one-yard rushing touchdown put the Bengals up 7-0 with 6:47 left in the first quarter after the extra point.

As the first quarter drew to an end, the Browns got the ball back off of a fumble. Mayfield had a hard time completing passes, so the Browns settled for a field goal. Cody Parkey made the 42-yard attempt, and the Browns got their first three points of the game. With 1:21 to go in the first, the Bengals still had a 7-3 lead.

The Burrow-to-Green connection worked as well as it ever had, as the two hooked up for two catches for 26 yards on the next drive. A sack stalled the drive, so the Bengals had to kick a field goal. Randy Bullock’s 37-yarder was good, and the Bengals led 10-3 with 11:09 remaining until halftime.

Mayfield finally completed his first pass of the game on the ensuing drive. He went five for five and ended the possession on a short touchdown pass to Harrison Bryant. After the extra point, the Browns tied the game at 10 apiece with 3:39 left in the second quarter.

Burrow responded by starting the next drive off with five straight completions. His sixth pass of the drive was a tight-window completion to Tyler Boyd that just squeaked passed the plane of the goal line. That 11-yard touchdown only came with 15 seconds left in the half, so both teams were go to the locker rooms.

The Bengals had the lead at halftime, 17-10.

Mayfield took the momentum he built into the third quarter. Bryant had 48 receiving yards on the first drive of the half, and capped off the possession with his second touchdown of the game. With 9:32, the Browns tied the game up again, 17-17 after Parkey’s kick after.

Zac Taylor got creative with his play-calling on the next drive. He wanted to avoid Myles Garrett, so he found ways to get the ball to the perimeter, like a screen pass from Boyd to Bernard, followed by an end around to Tee Higgins. The got the ball to the five-yard line, but had to settle for a field goal. With 2:51 remaining in the third quarter, the Bengals led 20-17 after a 23-yard field goal.

Mayfield kept completing passes as if there was no defense on the field. The Bengals were able to slow the run game, but left Browns receivers wide open for Mayfield to find. The only pass that was contested was a -yard pass to David Njoku for a touchdown. Vonn Bell actually had pretty good coverage on the play, but was one-on-one, and the throw and the catch were both perfect. After the extra point, the Browns reclaimed the lead with 13:13 left in the fourth quarter, up 24-20.

Burrow needed a touchdown on the next drive, and he found a way to move the ball. Burrow connected with Green, Drew Sample, and, finally, with Higgins. The final play was a short pass to Higgins, who broke a tackle and ran into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown. Bullock kicked the extra point and the Bengals had a 27-24 lead with 8:45 remaining in the game.

Mayfield continued his perfect passing streak and moved the ball down to the red zone with ease. His 18th consecutive completion was a dump off to Kareem Hunt from the 10-yard line, and Hunt walked into the end zone. The Browns left the Bengals 4:53 on the clock with a 31-27 lead after the extra point.

Burrow made a couple big-time throws to get the Bengals within striking range quickly. On third-and-11, the Bengals ran a draw play that looked like Burrow’s touchdown against the Chargers in Week 1. The Bengals had to convert a fourth-and-inches, which was a play-action pass to Giovani Bernard for a touchdown. Bernard actually lined up in the slot, and scored on the short pass to give the Bengals the lead. After the extra point, the Bengals led 34-31 with 66 seconds left in the game.

The Bengals scored too quickly, and the Browns got into field goal range since the defense couldn’t find a way to force an incompletion. Mayfield ended the game on a pass that went through Darius Philips’ hands to Donovan Peoples-Jones for a touchdown with 11 seconds left. Parkey missed the extra point, but it didn’t matter as the 37-34 score would be final.

The Bengals lost their fourth one-score game of the year, making them 1-12-1 in 8-or-fewer-point games in the Zac Taylor era.

The Bengals, now 1-5-1 on the season, will host the Titans in Week 8.