CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Browns could not find a way to stop the Cincinnati Bengals from getting explosive offensive plays, and it came back to haunt them in the form of a 31-17 loss at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
But despite falling to 0-7 and remaining the only winless team in the National Football League, second-year defensive lineman Danny Shelton believes the Browns are better than what they showed in the loss to the Bengals (3-4) in a matchup of struggling AFC North Division teams.
“We’re better than the way we played,” Shelton said. “I stand behind him (coach Hue Jackson) on that. We definitely didn’t play our hardest or the way the Browns should play.
“As a defense, we have to come out ready. We have to be focused. It always comes down to one drive. Someone is out of their technique or someone is missing a block. We have to be better at that.”
The Bengals struggled with clock management at the end of the first half, but with a quarterback like Andy Dalton and receiver like A.J. Green, sometimes, that does not matter.
On the final play of the first half, Dalton lofted a Hail Mary pass into the end zone, where Green tipped it to himself and made a one-handed catch off the deflection for a touchdown despite having three Browns defenders pulling him down to the field in an effort to separate the ball from his grasp.
Green’s touchdown catch gave the Bengals a 21-10 lead over the Browns heading into the locker room at halftime.
“It’s tough,” Shelton said. “I feel like our D-line didn’t get a good push on the offense, so it really put a lot of stress on the defense.”
Factoring in Cincinnati’s three longest touchdowns, 48- and 44-yard passing scores from Dalton to Green and fellow receiver Brandon LaFell, and a 74-yard sprint from running back Jeremy Hill, as well as another 48-yard grab by Green and 40-yard gallop from Hill, those five plays accounted for 254 yards, 45.4 percent of the Bengals’ offense against the Browns.
Although the Browns had 21- and 28-yard runs and seven pass catchers each have at least a 10-yard reception, they could not match the Bengals, who rushed for 271 yards, one of the top 10 running performances in franchise history, and totaled 559 against Cleveland’s defense.
“We know what we did wrong,” linebacker Christian Kirksey said. “Minor things killed us. We can get those cleaned up. We need to take a look at the film and see where we’re at. We have to find a way to play sound defense and start fast. The offense was moving the ball and keeping us off the field, but we didn’t do our part on defense.”