The Cincinnati Bengals scoffed at the Cleveland Browns’ talk of a new favorite for the AFC North crown with an all-around performance in a 41-20 win at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday.
This game had the makings of a disaster for Bengals’ quarterback Andy Dalton who threw two consecutive interceptions to Joe Haden, one a 29-yard touchdown to give the Browns an early 13-0 lead in the first quarter.
After throwing his eighth interception in the last nine quarters, Dalton would shake the bad Andy off his back and help lead the Bengals to a team-record 31 points in the second quarter.
And whenever a team scores 31 points in one quarter of play, with a touchdown coming off a blocked punt and another of a fumble recovery, you know that it had to be one of those games where Murphy’s Law was in full effect.
But that’s how the Bengals would accomplish the feat with linebacker James Harrison getting things started late in the first quarter with an 21-yard touchdown interception off James Campbell that would be nullified by penalty and put the ball on the Brown’s 21 yard line.
The penalty was of little consequence when Dalton connected with Jermaine Gresham for a 25-yard touchdown catch to put the Bengals within six and stop the downward spiral that the Bengals offense was on.
After that, things got weird.
Cleveland would go three-and-out before having a Spencer Lanning punt tipped by Shawn Williams that netted nine yards and put the ball on the Cleveland 38. The Bengals would throw a rare gadget play with Dalton throwing a lateral to Mohamed Sanu who threw a 25-yard pass to an open Giovani Bernard to Cleveland’s 9-yard line. A few plays later, Dalton connected with Sanu for a 6-yard touchdown reception.
A few drives later, the Bengals’ backup linebacker Jayson DiManche would block another Lanning punt at Cleveland’s’ 24-yard line. Bengals’ safety Tony Dye, who was promoted from the practice squad just a few days earlier, picked up the loose ball and returned it for a touchdown to put the Bengals up 21-13.
The Bengals defense wouldn’t stop there when Vontaze Burfict would recover his own forced fumble against Cleveland’s’ Chris Ogbonnaya at the Browns’ own 13-yard line and walk into the end zone to give the Bengals a 28-13 lead.
To cap off the Bengals’ record-setting second quarter, Mike Nugent would kick a 41-yard field goal with 20 seconds left in the half thanks to an Adam Jones 27-yard punt return that put the ball at the Browns’ 32.
The Bengals wouldn’t need any more points after that because the Browns’ offense is just that horrid.
When Jason Campbell, who is Cleveland’s third option at quarterback, throws 56 times in one game, things are going to get ugly. Campbell was able to get the Browns some points before going quietly into the night with a 74-yard touchdown pass to Josh Gordon to make it a 20-31 game. It was the last time the Browns would even sniff the end zone.
The Browns were able to save face on the day by having a good defensive showing. Dalton finished the day with less than 100 yards passing and completed only 13 of 27 passes. After a 2-yard touchdown pass to Alex Smith in the fourth quarter to give the Bengals a 38-20 lead, Dalton finished the day with three touchdowns against two interceptions for a final qb rating of 62.7.
The Bengals finished the game with 10 first downs to Cleveland’s’ 15 and 224 yards of total offense against the Browns’ 330. It’s no wonder why the Browns are even considered a contender with those kinds of numbers and finishing the game with a 21-point deficit.
After sharing some doubts in the last article about Andy Dalton and his ability to become “elite,” he certainly didn’t prove his doubters wrong in today’s game, but he was able to collect himself after a poor start and help his team to a perfect 5-0 record at home.
One thing is for certain though; Dalton owes his defense and special teams dinner and a movie. With three touchdown passes on 97 yards, it is clearly obvious that the Bengals won this game on defense and field position.
Vontaze Burfict, who is showing the makings of a Pro Bowl linebacker, had 15 tackles, a forced fumble, fumble recovery, and a touchdown in one game.
The only major defensive statistic he has yet to have this season is a safety.
Sitting atop the division with a 2.5 game lead over a now three-way tie between the Browns, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore, the Bengals go into their Bye week for some much needed rest and their sights set on a third-consecutive playoff appearance.
With only one game out of the next five against a team with a winning record (Colts), the Bengals have plenty of time to get its offense back on track for a possible deep playoff run.