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The good, the bad and the ugly in Bengals’ 23-10 Week 14 win over Browns

It wasn’t the prettiest of victories, but the Bengals overcame a lot of adversity to get the win over Cleveland.

Sometimes the most satisfying wins are the ones that aren’t the most glamorous. Such was the case with the Bengals “getting off the schneid” against the Browns on Sunday.

Here are the best and worst facets from Cincinnati’s 23-10 win over Cleveland at Paycor Stadium.

The good

Just getting the win:

Between falling to 0-3 in the AFC to start the year and before the bye, going 1-6 under Zac Taylor against the Browns (including five straight losses) and just needing to keep current playoff pace, the Bengals needed this one. While it wasn’t the prettiest win in the Taylor/Joe Burrow era, this was just what the doctor ordered.

The win showed grit (more on that in a second), continued creative ways to come out on top and exorcised the demon that has oddly been the Cleveland Browns. You just know that this particular brought a smile to Mike Brown’s face—for a number of good reasons.

Overcoming a ton of adversity:

Cincinnati headed into this one hobbled. Hayden Hurst was out, while Tee Higgins re-aggravated his hamstring in pregame warmups. Meanwhile, in the game, Tyler Boyd dislocated his finger and Trey Hendrickson broke his wrist, adding to the walking wounded.

Deshaun Watson still had some rust, but knocked a bit of it off going into the week, with full practices and a game under his belt when heading to Cincinnati. Additionally, Cincinnati’s offense just wasn’t fully clicking, be it from the injuries and/or matchup issues the Browns constantly seem to provide for the Bengals.

Regardless, this gutsy win has to go down as one of the best of the year for Cincinnati. Beating a team they hadn’t since Taylor was a rookie head coach and doing so by seeming to “dig deep”, to use a cliché.

The two-back system:

A lot of folks clamored for Samaje Perine to have a higher-profile role because of his heroics the past two and a half games in relief of Joe Mixon, but the offensive system works very well with both guys making plays. Mixon looked particularly refreshed, running as hard as he did at any point in his storied career.

Mixon had over 100 yards from scrimmage again, including some clock-bleeding statement yards at the end of the contest. Perine averaged 5.5 yards per carry with Mixon at 6.9, showcasing the dominance they both had against Cleveland on Sunday.

All levels of the defense:

It was just pretty solid all-around from Lou Anarumo’s group once again this Sunday. Sure, Deshaun Watson made some nice completions and Donovan Peoples-Jones went over 100 yards, but a lot of that came late when the Browns were in catch-up mode.

Cincinnati’s defense held the Browns to a 4-of-15 third down conversion rate (27%), while also forcing an interception and two sacks. It was also great to see guys like Cam Taylor-Britt make a late impact with a couple of pass deflections, as it was also seeing D.J. Reader thoroughly dominate up front.

The bad

Some kicking/punting issues:

Evan McPherson missed an extra point this week, making things a little tenuous for a Cleveland comeback. To boot, Drue Chrisman had a late shanked punt that also provided nervousness in the fourth quarter.

Additionally, the Bengals didn’t get much on the return side. No kickoff returns were made, and Trent Taylor averaged just 4.7 yards per punt return.

The ugly

The injuries:

As mentioned before, Cincinnati came into this one hobbled and left it even more so. Does anyone remember that Week 2 matchup in 2006 that cost the promising Bengals David Pollack (neck), Rich Braham and others?

This one kind of reminded us of that with Tee Higgins continuing to nurse his hamstring injury, while also losing Trey Hendrickson (broken wrist) and Tyler Boyd (dislocated finger). Throw in Hurst and there were a lot of casualties here for Cincinnati as they enter the home stretch.

Stop holding and/or blocking in the back on punt returns, please and thank you:

It’s become a weekly tradition unlike any other. The usually-sound Darrin Simmons unit has made a nasty habit of getting some big penalties called on them on returns over the past month or so.

It has started the Bengals’ offense in poor field position a number of times, usually after a favorable stop by the defense. These are situations wherein the Bengals could assert further dominance and control over the game, if not pinning themselves back.

Still haven’t figured out the batted passes at the line:

Joe Burrow has thrown nine interceptions this year. We’d venture to guess that over half of them have come from a batted ball at the line and every single one of them have come against divisional foes.

While Burrow is playing outstanding this year, this is a facet he needs to clean up quickly. Teams that have a bit more familiarity with him tend to be able to read some passes more readily and these create game-changing moments.