With a little over a minute to go in the game, the Bengals gave their defense yet another lead to spoil. A tremendous game from rookie Joe Burrow was wasted and head coach Zac Taylor notched another loss on his young coaching career. The Bengals now sit at 1-5-1 and have some major decisions to make on the defensive side of the ball.
Here are the winners and losers from Cincinnati’s 37-34 loss to Cleveland.
A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins: The triumvirate of Cincinnati’s receiving corps had a great afternoon and each player had his own improbable moment. A.J. Green’s sideline grab against Terrence Mitchell had a 15.3% catch probability. Tyler Boyd’s touchdown has a 20.3% catch probability. Tee Higgins’ touchdown had less than 5% touchdown probability before he fought his way into the end zone. These three kept the Bengals in the game.
The entire offensive line: After losing three of their starters, the Bengals’ front five on offense turned in a gutsy performance. Fred Johnson and Billy Price ran into some penalty issues, but neither of them had any terrible reps. Michael Jordan, Alex Redmond, and even Bobby Hart—before he got hurt—had quality games.
Joe Burrow: This really should’ve been win No. 2 for the rookie. Burrow crossed the 400-yard marker for the first time in his career and was damn accurate down the field. His crucial mistakes early in the game where nullified as he continued to deal against the Browns’ secondary.
Lou Anarumo and Al Golden: One pulls the strings for the whole defense, and the other pulls the strings on third down. Allowing five third down conversions on just seven attempts and garnering zero sacks and next to zero pressure on Browns’ quarterback Baker Mayfield falls on both of these coaches. Perhaps this is one of the last times Anarumo coordinates the Bengals’ defense.
The entire pass rush: Their talent is not great and their opposition was stout, but it was pitiful game from this unit. Carl Lawson, Mike Daniels and others failed to get in Mayfield’s face, giving him all the time in the world to light the secondary on fire.
Darius Phillips: The interception to begin the game was fantastic, but Phillips was the primary reason the Browns scored at the end of the game. Phillips allowed back-to-back deep completions, including the game-winning touchdown to Donovan Peoples-Jones.
Vonn Bell: The Bengals’ strong safety continued to be exposed in man coverage. Bell was the culprit for two of Mayfield’s touchdowns. His work in the run game has been solid, but it doesn’t make up for his lacking coverage skills.
Germaine Pratt: It was not a good day for Pratt in coverage. He allowed a deep pass down the sideline to Rashard Higgins and a touchdown to Kareem Hunt. Pratt’s been a liability in both games vs. the Browns this year.
Jonah Williams: Williams left the game early in the second quarter with a neck injury, but he allowed strip-sack vs. Myles Garrett before that. Hopefully he’s not hurt too bad with Trey Hopkins and Bobby Hart also suffering injuries in this game.