The Bengals were four days removed from a crushing last-second defeat to the Chargers. The Browns were coming off of a blowout by the Ravens. Both teams were looking to right the ship on Thursday night.
Unfortunately, it was the Browns that figured out their issues, and won 35-23.
Tonight was not the night for A.J. Green. Joe Burrow targeted him 12 times, but only completed three of those passes.
Burrow finally showed what the Bengals saw in him at LSU, passing the ball a whopping 61 times for 316 yards and three touchdowns. Burrow’s 61 attempts were the second-most by a rookie in NFL history.
Brandon Wilson set the Bengals up with a strong kick return on the opening kick. Joe Burrow commanded the offense much better than he did during the first three quarters of the opener against the Chargers. But the drive stalled on a sack, so Randy Bullock had to come in for the 38-yard field goal attempt. His calves held up, and the kick was good. While the Bengals didn’t score a touchdown on the opening drive, they took almost eight minutes off the clock and were ahead 3-0 with 7:15 left in the opening quarter.
The Browns started out with back-to-back play-action passes from outside the pocket for a total of 35 yards. Mayfield was a perfect four-for-four, but the drive ended with an 11-yard touchdown run from Chubb. After the extra point, the Browns were ahead 7-3 with 1:48 to go in the quarter.
A botched snap turned the Bengals’ next drive into a quick punt. Mayfield finally connected with Odell Beckham, Jr. on a 43-yard play-action rollout. With 12:02 left in the second quarter, the Browns were up 14-3 following the extra point.
Wilson provided the Bengals with another nice return, setting them up at their own 43-yard line. Burrow finished off the drive with his first touchdown pass of his career, a 23-yarder to C.J. Uzomah. The touchdown came with nine minutes in the half, and the Bengals were inching closer to make the score 14-10.
Joe Burrow's first TD pass of his career! pic.twitter.com/URD9VxhpyG— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) September 18, 2020
The Browns chipped their way down the field, playing all but one snap from first or second down. Mayfield led the offense all the way down to the six-yard line, where he connected with Kareem Hunt on third down for a score. With only 1:31 to go until halftime, the Bengals’ trailed 21-10 with only one timeout left.
Burrow moved the Bengals down the field like he did during the two-minute drill against the Chargers last week. Burrow moved the ball 55 yards but ran out of time to get to the red zone. Bullock hit a 43-yard field goal to score before halftime. The Bengals trailed going into the locker room 21-13.
Burrow looked good in the first half, despite taking two sacks. Mayfield look night and day from his disastrous outing the week before against the Ravens. The two combined for 69 percent completions, 336 yards, and three touchdowns in the first half.
Mixon was a dual threat for the offense, gaining 40 yards through the air. Unfortunately, his ineffectiveness on the ground limited the offense on early downs.
Beckham rebounded from his poor performance against the Ravens. In the first half, he had three catches for 68 yards and a touchdown.
The Bengals defense looked just as bad opening the second half. Jarvis Landry took the ball 21 yards on a fourth down conversion, which was followed up by a 23-yard run from Chubb that reached the goal line. The run was originally ruled a touchdown, but the call was overturned; that turned out to save the Bengals six points, as the Browns failed to punch it in on four attempts. The Bengals took over on downs from their own one-yard line.
The Bengals couldn’t get out of the shadow of their own end zone. Myles Garrett stripped the ball out of Burrow’s hands and the Browns at the Bengals’ goal line. Chubb finally got the touchdown he thought he had earlier, and the Browns increased their lead to 28-13 with the extra point with 5:45 left in the third quarter.
Burrow used his legs to move the ball on the next drive, and even converted a fourth down by running. Giovani Bernard got the ball closer to the five-yard line, then took the ball again to the goal line. This run was also ruled a touchdown, but the call was reversed. The Bengals went backwards, so ended up settling for a field goal. They didn’t get the score they wanted, but they cut the lead to 28-16 with only 20 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Bengals desperately needed a stop, and they got one. William Jackson picked off Mayfield for the Bengals’ first takeaway of the season.
The Bengals got the ball at their own 17-yard line. The Bengals needed another fourth down conversion, and this time it was Tyler Boyd who got it done for them. The drive lasted 14 plays and ended with a four-yard touchdown pass to Mike Thomas. Bullock’s kick was good, so the Bengals were getting closer, down only 28-23 with 5:55 left in the game.
The Bengals needed the defense to come through, and the defense completely failed. Chubb and Hunt ripped off runs of 26 and 33 yards in back-to-back plays. Just like that, the Browns were at the 11-yard line in three plays. Hunt finished the drive off with a touchdown. The Bengals knew the Browns were going to run, but they could do nothing to stop it. The Browns increased their lead to two scores, 35-23 with 3:55 to go in the game.
Burrow led the Bengals down to the red zone again by converting another two fourth down attempts. With time running out, he found Boyd in the end zone for a nine-yard touchdown. Down only 35-30, the Bengals went for an onside kick for to try to steal the win.
The Browns recovered the onside kick to seal the game, handing the Bengals the 35-30 loss.
The Bengals have a long week ahead of them before they face the Eagles on September 27th.