The second quarter of the game between the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals was not only remarkable in how one sided it was, but why it was so one sided. Looking at the score, it looks like the defense of the Browns got impaled by the Bengals offense, but the Bengals only had three first downs in the entire first half. The Browns offense and special teams combined for a meltdown that will live in the annals of Cleveland lore for a while to come.
The Browns actually had a 13 point lead entering the second quarter thanks almost entirely to the defense. Joe Haden had two interceptions and returned one of them for a touchdown. The offense had done little and just before the half, gave the Bengals an opening to come right back into the game with a tipped Jason Campbell pass that would be intercepted by James Harrison.
The Bengals were able to get a touchdown where the Browns were settling for field goals that put the Bengals right back into the game at 13-7. There would also be a fumble from Chris Ogbannaya that was caused and picked up by Vontaze Burfict a touchdown later in the quarter that put the Bengals up 28-13.
The rest of the day was one, long painful nightmare for Special Teams Coach Chris Tabor. Tabor is an extremely fiery guy who is not afraid to express his disappointment or frustration when the Browns make small mistakes. So in one quarter of play that had enough critical mistakes that would infuriate Tabor over the course of an entire season, it seems as though something is going to happen after this game. Whether that is simply an unbelievably painful film session or guys potentially being cut remains to be seen.
The Browns had a punt deflected, a punt blocked and another punt all in one quarter which directly led to 7 points and indirectly led to 10 more, which on its own would have given the Bengals the lead. The Browns had problems with the protection and they were simply unable to protect Spencer Lanning in order for him to punt the ball. Then, when they adjusted to protect him, it enabled Adam Jones to get a big run that set up the Bengals close to field goal range before the half.
As Tabor knows full well, the record for teams able to block a kick is overwhelming. When a team gets a block, they win about three quarters of those games. The people who treat special teams as one third of the game know this and treat it with that kind of respect. With the way the Browns have trouble scoring on offense (13 offensive points in this game with 3 of those from the first Haden interception), giving up points on special teams is a virtual death sentence for this team.
This disaster would probably not quite as large if not for the fact that the Browns were in position to take control of this game while having done little or nothing on the offensive side of the ball. The defense played remarkably well. The Bengals scored 41 points. Andy Dalton threw for 93 yards and Haden was his most productive receiver. The Bengals as a team had 224 total yards. This was a big opportunity wasted by the Browns and all but ended their playoff chances in the process.