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3 winners and a myriad of losers in Bengals’ ugly loss vs. Browns

Cincinnati got embarrassed at home by their bitter rivals, thanks to a glut of errors and familiar personnel matchup problems.

The Cincinnati Bengals had an opportunity to make a statement and continue to climb in the AFC North rankings with a win against their arch-rivals this Sunday. Instead, the tables turned on them, and they got absolutely embarrassed by the Cleveland Browns.

Here are the winners and losers by the Bengals in their 41-16 loss to Cleveland in Week 9.

Winners

Joe Mixon:

In the first quarter alone, Mixon made fantasy football owners happy. He found the end zone on an 11-yard run on the team’s second possession, and added a couple of nice grabs on the first possession.

He continued making plays on the ground and through the air, en route to a 100-plus-yards from scrimmage performance. He also ran for two touchdowns on the day.

Evan McPherson:

The rookie kicker keeps quietly doing his job, nailing all of his kicks. It was just one extra point (which was moved back five extra yards from a penalty) and field goal attempt apiece, but he was reliable on a day of total chaos.

Sam Hubbard:

It was a disaster of a day for the Bengals’ defense overall, but Hubbard made plays throughout the afternoon. He had four tackles, with two for loss, including a sack. He had three quarterback hits in all.

Losers

Joe Burrow:

Burrow has gained a bit of a gunslinger mentality this year. While it has worked out far more often than not, there have been costly turnovers—much like the pick-six to Denzel Ward on the opening drive in the red zone.

Then, with the Bengals down 21 points, Burrow forced a ball into tight coverage that was tipped and picked late in the third quarter. His receivers didn’t do him any favors with a handful of drops (two in the end zone by two different receivers), but the turnovers were the big differences in the game. Burrow now leads the NFL in interceptions thrown and failed to throw multiple touchdowns in a game for the first time this season (or any, for that matter). He also had to reattach his ankles.

Lou Anarumo:

The defensive coordinator’s unit had plenty of rest to start the game, but that didn’t stop the Browns from having their way on the opening drive. Then, when the Bengals needed a critical stop from the defense, Baker Mayfield launched a deep ball to Donovan Peoples-Jones (who killed them in the second matchup of 2020) for a gut-punch of a touchdown on the first play of their second possession.

Cincinnati needed another stop in the third quarter to keep the game within reach. They called a timeout to make sure things were settled on defense during a 2nd-and-10. Off of the timeout, Nick Chubb took a run 70 yards to the house and an insurmountable lead.

The defense did get a couple of stops in the second half, be it by a missed field goal and/or sacks, but it was too little, too late. One excuse for the poor performance is that the Bengals’ offense put them in bad positions with two turnovers yielding good field position and another gifting the Browns seven points.

However, poor tackling and the inability to shed blocks from the front position groups spelled doom.

Eli Apple:

Speaking of the big play to Peoples-Jones, Apple was once again victimized for a big pass this year. He had single coverage and was beat by the second-year wide receiver for a massive momentum swing in this game. He also missed a tackle on Chubb during his big run.

The front units of the Bengals’ defense:

Other than Hubbard and a little from Trey Hendrickson, Cincinnati’s front lines of defense had few answers for the mauling Browns’ offensive line. Chubb had close to 10 yards per carry in the game, as the Bengals’ safeties were put in precarious positions with the alignments Anarumo put forth. Even Hendrickson wasn’t immune from issues, as he had an egregious missed tackle on a frustrating Chubb run that netted 13 yards after looking like a loss.

Akeem Davis-Gaither left the game injured, but it’s been a quiet couple of weeks for Logan Wilson, as the team got out-muscled on defense by Cleveland’s offense once again. It was quite a disheartening sight after the team investing so much money and draft capital on that side of the ball the past two seasons.

Ja’Marr Chase:

You can’t expect to win when your best players are turning the ball over. Whether it was Burrow throwing the pick-six, or Chase’s big second quarter fumble, the Bengals kept shooting themselves in the foot.

Cleveland obviously keyed on Chase in the passing game and the Bengals countered with designed runs to “Uno”, but they didn’t net anything. He also had a touchdown throw go through his arms in the second half and another deep ball go just beyond his fingertips midway through the fourth quarter, which could be debated if it was an overthrow or a true drop. Either way, it didn’t really matter, other than to point to the myriad of issues by Cincinnati on the afternoon.

Samaje Perine:

When we first started drafting this post, Perine was a “winner”, with a couple of high-effort plays early in the game. But, a crucial drop on third down in the second quarter and a missed block on a Chase catch in the third quarter marred the early merits. He had two catches for 17 yards and three carries for nine yards, otherwise.

Zac Taylor:

All week, Kevin Stefanski preached how his Browns team was “desperate for a win”. They showed up by creating turnovers, running the football and overcoming injuries on the road for a huge division win.

This game should have been equally important for the Bengals and came at an opportune time when the Browns were seemingly in chaos this week. Instead, Taylor’s team made familiar mistakes and didn’t show up in a pivotal game for the trajectory of their season.

The comedy of errors shown on Sunday showed a lack of an ability to play well under big spotlights. This one wasn’t primetime, but the top CBS announcing team was calling it and this was the primary early game available to the country. Do we need to continue the dialogue about them (mis-)handling success?

Some huge regrouping needs to occur by Taylor and his staff this week during the bye, as huge questions about the viability of this team loom. It was a fun stretch throughout much of September and October, but the past two weeks have been absolute nightmares with the team’s issues being exposed.