The Cleveland Browns completed the season sweep of the Cincinnati Bengals, winning 21-16 to wrap up regular-season play. Cincinnati finishes the year 10-7 and now awaits the results of several more games before learning who they’ll host in the Wild Card Round of the NFL playoffs.
Both teams started off extremely slow. Because the Bengals were resting Joe Burrow and the Baker Mayfield had labrum surgery, both teams started backup quarterbacks.
The Bengals not only rested Burrow, but most of their starters including Evan McPherson.
Ja’Marr Chase only stayed in the game for five snaps. He had one catch for 24 yards, during which he broke Chad Johnson’s franchise record for receiving yards in a season. The new mark to beat is 1,455 yards, which Chase set right before he exited the game.
Except for Mayfield, the Browns had most of their starters in. Once Case Keenum got into a rhythm under center, the Browns dominated the Bengals’ backups.
The two teams traded punts for most of the first quarter, but the Browns struck first. Jarvis Landry caught the ball in coverage against Tre Flowers, who slipped and let Landry into the end zone for the first touchdown of the game. After the extra point, the Browns had a 7-0 lead with 56 second left in the first quarter.
The Browns struck again, this time with two runs in the red zone from D’Ernest Johnson. Both times, it looked like his initial gap was covered, so he ran around the edge and got into the end zone. The extra point gave the Browns a 14-0 lead with 11:22 remaining in the second quarter.
The Bengals had trouble scoring points on offense, so the defense stepped up instead. Wyatt Ray forced Keenum to fumble the ball, and Trayvon Henderson picked it up and ran 29 yards to the end zone. Henderson was one of the practice squad call-ups this week, and with that was the first touchdown of his career in only his second game. The Bengals were finally on the board, 14-7 with 3:28 left in the half after Eliot Fry’s extra point.
The Bengals didn’t have a single third down conversion in the first half, but got their first two early in the third quarter. Their best drive of the game so far was their first of the second half, and they got all the way down to the red zone for the first time. The Bengals had the ball at the 11-yard line, but the Bengals got a delay of game penalty and a sack, so they had to settle for a field goal. Fry came in for the 36-yard kick, and the Bengals chipped away at the deficit, 14-10. This was Fry’s fifth career field goal, coming at 5:01 left in the third quarter.
The Browns’ offense played much better than their score indicated. They had five red zone possessions, but had two turnovers on the goal line. On the fifth attempt, Demetric Felton took the ball on a draw and scampered 10 yards for the Browns’ third touchdown of the game. The extra point was good, and the Bengals had a 21-10 deficit with 7:14 remaining in the game.
Allen finally started slinging the ball, and had his two longest passes through the air on the next drive. The Bengals got their first offensive touchdown of the game on a fourth-down conversion. Allen rolled out and lofted the ball to Chris Evans for the four-yard score. The Bengals went for two and failed, so the score was 21-16 with 2:25 to go in the game.
Chris Evans is having himself a Sunday! Up to 59 all-purpose yards and the TD! pic.twitter.com/AYiywyLcrd— Willie Lutz (@willie_lutz) January 9, 2022
The Bengals attempted the onside kick and just barely let the ball slip away. The Browns ran out the clock and that sealed the game.
With the Chiefs and the Titans both winning, the result wouldn’t have made a difference in the AFC standings, so the Bengals move on to prepare for the Wild Card round of the playoffs.