The Browns and Bengals took the field in Cleveland as two teams both on the upswing. The Browns won an emotional game on the road against the Minnesota Vikings last week amid controversy while the Bengals made a statement by winning against a good Green Bay Packers team with a chance to take control of the division. Both teams have extremely talented defenses but the Bengals were missing a large chunk of their secondary while the Browns were forced to send out Oniel Cousins again and were without Jabaal Sheard and Billy Winn. In a series notorious for hard-fought, tough matchups that have unpredictable results, the Browns and Bengals had a low scoring affair that was in doubt until late in the fourth quarter.
The Browns came out and had a good opening script and were able to go right down the field behind some creative play calls including a timely screen to Travis Benjamin for 36 yards that set them up with an opportunity to score. Brian Hoyer in his second game as the quarterback for the Browns, made a nice back shoulder throw to Jordan Cameron for the touchdown as Cameron just continues to be on a tear this year.
The Bengals offense had some opportunities to score, but missed opportunities. Behind Andy Dalton, the Bengals were able to set up in scoring position a few times but had to settle for field goal attempts as well as a 4th down situation they could not make. Dalton never seemed to get comfortable in part because the Browns worked hard to take away A.J. Green and a pass rush that was able to put pressure on Dalton.
After the initial touchdown, the Browns offense progressively got weaker and the Bengals defense got stronger. They were able to stifle the run for much of the game and the Browns tried to use screens to make up for it, but Geno Atkins was dominant, securing one and a half sacks against John Greco while Carlos Dunlap had another one and a half.
A crucial part of the game was turnovers as the Browns were able to avoid losing the ball on turnovers while the Bengals lost a fumble on a Chris Owens sack fumble which he recovered as well as a late interception by Buster Skrine on D’Qwell Jackson’s third tipped pass that has resulted in an interception this year.
The Bengals’ secondary problems really took their toll as they simply could not find an answer for Jordan Cameron, but while Josh Gordon had a couple plays, one an incredible catch, they were able to contain him. No one really had a huge game in terms of receiving yardage, but Cameron was targeted 12 times and caught 10 passes for 91 yards and a touchdown.
The Bengals offense was able to make big plays on occasion but would follow them up with costly mistakes. For instance, Jermaine Gresham had a big play down the middle of the field which was then followed up by a 14 yard loss on a bad snap the following play. The Browns defense was able to force the Bengals to punt and the next possession the Browns were able to stick the dagger in the Bengal hearts.
With both defenses tiring and offenses primed to make an impact, Hoyer was able to avoid pressure and make a couple of big throws to Cameron and Bobby Rainey followed by the Browns using Willis McGahee and the offensive line marching down the field. After getting inside the 5 yard line, Hoyer threw a flat pass to Chris Ogbannaya for a touchdown pass that put the Browns up 17-6 with under 5 minutes to play. Dalton and the Bengals offense could not muster a drive and the Browns were ultimately able to secure the victory, 17-6 behind a great defense and just enough offense. The Bengals had an opportunity to take lone possession of first place in the AFC North and now are in a three-way tie with the Browns and Ravens.