For the first time all year, Joe Burrow did not throw a touchdown in a game. He had an interception on the goal line and dropped passes to Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase in the end zone, but none of them went for Bengals’ points.
Burrow didn’t have an all-around horrible day, completing 70 percent of his passes and throwing for 282 yards. But his two interceptions proved costly, as well as other errors on the Bengals’ offense.
Burrow’s offense produced several methodical drives that came up empty. This meant the Browns’ offense didn’t get many opportunities, but they didn’t need many. The Browns gained eight yards per play, including 6.8 yards per rushing attempt. As a result, they only had eight third-down plays, but still had six offensive scores.
The Bengals put the burden on Burrow early on, and he kept the Bengals on schedule. He completed five passes for 65 yards, including one on a flee flicker to Tee Higgins. But the drive ended tragically on an interception on the goal line to Denzel Ward. The Browns returned the pick 99 yards to the opposite end zone, and completed the extra point. At the end of an excellent drive by the Bengals, they quickly found themselves trailing 7-0 with 8:43 left in the first quarter.
Burrow went to break down for the tackle and his body went “absolutely not chief, we are a quarterback” pic.twitter.com/2vhdQSMNQR— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) November 7, 2021
The Bengals responded with a second long drive. With the Browns expecting runs on nearly every play, the Bengals burned them with play action passes to Drew Sample, Tee Higgins, and Mike Thomas. The drive ended on a toss to the left side, which Joe Mixon took 11 yards to the end zone. Evan McPherson made the extra point, and the Bengals had the game tied at 7-7 with 4:10 minutes to go in the first quarter.
The Bengals’ defense got their first action almost eleven minutes into the game. The Browns’ defense was on the field for 20 straight snaps before their offense even got a possession.
The Browns’ offense got off to a strong start after sitting on the sidelines for two-thirds of the quarter. Nick Chubb not only had a good possession on the ground, but also had a key 24-yard reception. A pass interference penalty on Ricardo Allen got the Browns a first-and-goal on the one-yard line, and Chubb pounded the ball in for the touchdown. With 14:45, the Browns had a 14-7 lead after Chase McLaughlin’s extra point.
Cincinnati put together a decent drive on their next possession, but turned the ball over on downs. The very next play, Mayfield went deep to Donovan Peoples-Jones for a 60-yard touchdown against Eli Apple. After the quick strike, the Browns led 21-7 following the extra point.
Ja’Marr Chase gave up the ball on a fumble, and the Browns returned it to the Bengals’ 30-yard line. The Browns had third-and-two inside the five-yard line, but they tried to do too much and were forced to settle for a field goal. McLaughlin’s short kick was good, and even though the Browns extended their lead, it felt like the first defensive win of any kind in this game. But points are points, and the Browns led 24-7 with 4:10 remaining in the half.
The Bengals desperately needed a score before halftime. A post-play skirmish helped move the Bengals 15 yards downfield, and the Bengals set up in the red zone. The Bengals were a few yards short of a crucial first down, so McPherson settled for a 27-yard field goal to send the game to halftime.
Despite out-gaining the Browns by 89 yards, the Bengals trailed 24-10 at the half.
A look at the box score might show the Bengals having a successful first half, but the scoreboard would only reveal ten points to show for it. The interception, the fumble, and the drop that led to the unsuccessful fourth down conversion had gone differently, the Bengals could actually be leading instead.
It also didn’t help that the defense gave up points on every Browns possession. Mayfield completed seven of his eight passes for 15 yards per attempt. Chubb ran for six and a half yards per carry, so while the Browns didn’t have a lot of chances with the ball, they were efficient with what they had.
The “new and improved” Bengals defense continued to look like the old and deficient unit Bengals fans are used to, as Chubb broke multiple tackles for a 70-yard touchdown run. In a backbreaking run that was reminiscent of his performance in Thursday Night Football last year, Chubb had the Browns up 31-10 with 8:10 remaining in the third quarter.
Ward beat Chase again and tipped a ball that ended up an interception. The Bengals’ defense kept the Browns to only a field goal, but the Browns went up 34-10 with 5:17 to go in the third.
With the game sufficiently out of hand, the Browns defense let up and let the Bengals steal some points back. Mixon ran the ball in for his second score of the game. The Bengals failed the two-point conversion, so the score was 34-16 with 13:54 left in regulation.
The Browns continued to impose their will on the helpless Bengals defense. Mayfield hit David Njoku for an 18-yard touchdown to go up 41-16 with 4:27 remaining in the game.
The backup quarterbacks came in and the game slowly faded to black. The Browns took the win, 41-16.
After this game, both teams’ records changed to 5-4. The Bengals, with the loss fell to last place in the division after holding first only two weeks earlier.
The Bengals have the bye week to sort things out before they head to Las Vegas for Week 11. Hopefully, the Raiders are one of the few teams imploding more than the Bengals.