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4 winners and 6 losers from Bengals’ 35-30 defeat to Browns

A porous defensive performance highlighted the Bengals’ 16th loss in the last 18 games. But the new quarterback continues to look like he belongs on the field.

For the third time in four years, the Bengals played on Thursday Night Football in Week 2 of the regular season, and their 35-30 defeat to the Cleveland Browns makes them 1-2 in those games.

Another loss in primetime stinks, but for once, it’s nice to know the quarterback wasn’t the main reason why that was so. There’s a lot more wrong with this Bengals team than there is right, and that’s why they’re here at 0-2.

Let’s go through tonight’s winners and losers.


Joe Burrow

Poise. Just major, major poise. When it looked completely lost in the first half, Burrow took 32 drop backs and still mustered a 52% success rate with a completion percentage nearly 10% greater than his expected completion percentage. And hey, first career passing touchdown! And it was a dime to C.J. Uzomah.

The game was put all on Burrow because it had to be. The Browns shut down the Bengals’ running game and while there were drives where the Bengals left points on the board, Burrow was impressive throughout. Everyone sees why he’s different, it’ll just take time to put it all together.

Mike Thomas

Perhaps the only receiver to beat Denzel Ward tonight, Thomas hauled in Joe Burrow’s second touchdown of the game on a short slant near the goal-line. Thomas has been involved in meaningful snaps for the first two games of the season, and with Auden Tate being inactive for this game and John Ross continuing to struggle, Thomas seems like a top-four receiver in this offense going forward.

Drew Sample

As the Bengals’ second-most targeted pass catcher, Sample’s 45 yards on seven receptions gave him a career game. He also showed off his left hand strength by hauling in an impressive one-handed grab. With Uzomah probably out for the year, this is Sample’s time to shine.

Brandon Wilson

The Bengals’ kick returner bursted for a couple of long runs off of kickoffs in the first half, giving Burrow some of his best field position of the game.


Fred Johnson

In his first career start at right guard, Johnson had a rough first drive; allowing a pressure on third down got Burrow sacked. He had a holding penalty on final drive in the first half and handled a Myles Garrett stunt terribly that got Burrow strip-sacked, which led to the Browns’ fourth touchdown of the game. A good down block on the Giovani Bernard-near touchdown salvaged his performance slightly, though.

Perhaps Johnson just isn’t meant to play inside.

Josh Bynes and Germaine Pratt

Week 1 is a mirage for a lot of reasons. After looking solid against the run against the Chargers, Bynes and Pratt were terrible tonight. Bynes looked sluggish in coverage on over routes off play action and was near the top of the leaderboard for missed tackles as well. Pratt was not far behind him; consistently being late in run fits and being a part of the failed brigade to bring Nick Chubb down.

With these two being on the field on early downs, the Browns took advantage by utilizing play action and picking on them with crossing routes off of play action rollouts. Such a combination is a great blueprint for offenses to exploit in the near future.

A.J. Green

We’re not sure if Green just isn’t there, but Green is not making a great case for the alternative. 13 targets should net more than just three receptions and 29 yards, even if Denzel Ward played amazingly against him.

Green is under 100 yards for the first two weeks and this may be the beginning of him being phased out of the No. 1 option in the passing game altogether. But, this is Green, so let’s not count him out just yet.

The entire pass rush

Where was it? Carlos Dunlap, Sam Hubbard and Carl Lawson eventually have to get home in one-on-one situations. Geno Atkins or not, these three failed to pressure Baker Mayfield when he did stay in the pocket and allowed him to get comfortable for the first time since 2018.

Lou Anarumo

This isn’t going to reflect well on the Bengals’ defensive coordinator’s resume. We knew Nick Chubb was going to be tough to corral, but there’s no excuse for this overall performance. Credit to the Browns for calling a great game, but Anarumo didn’t look close in terms of countering it.