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.
Factoring in Cincinnati’s three longest touchdowns, 48- and 44-yard passing scores from quarterback Andy Dalton to wide receivers A.J. Green and 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, or 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.
With the loss to the Bengals, the Browns dropped to 0-7 under first-year head coach Hue Jackson and remain the only winless team in the National Football League.
During the first half, the Browns lost quarterback Cody Kessler to a concussion after he went 9 for 11 with 82 yards passing against the Bengals. In his place, backup signal-caller Kevin Hogan completed 12 of his 24 throws for 100 yards with two interceptions.
Already in the game on multiple occasions to run out of the shotgun formation, Hogan accounted for a team-best 104 yards and a 28-yard touchdown on just seven carries against the Bengals. Hogan’s 104 rushing yards were the second-most in a single game by a quarterback in Browns history.
The Bengals answered the Browns’ first touchdown of the game with one of their own on a 44-yard pass from Dalton to LaFell with 4:09 to play in the first half. The 44-yard scoring strike gave the Bengals a 14-10 lead over the Browns and capped off a five-play, 80-yard drive that took barely over two minutes off the clock.
Prior to the touchdown pass, Dalton completed a 21-yard pass to LaFell that moved the ball from Cincinnati’s 35-yard line to Cleveland’s 44. A challenge from the Browns did not reveal a loss of possession, and the play stood as called.
The Bengals struggled with clock management at the end of the first half, but with 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 him from the ball.
Green’s touchdown catch gave the Bengals a 21-10 lead over the Browns heading into the locker room at halftime.
Although Hogan’s touchdown run drew the Browns to within four points early in the second half, the Bengals had a response, and it was a quick one.
On the second play of the ensuing drive, Hill took the handoff from Dalton, ran around right tackle Eric Winston and sprinted 74 yards for a touchdown that extended Cincinnati’s lead back to 11 points, 28-17, with 9:47 to play in the third quarter.
Despite dealing with a shoulder injury, Hill eclipsed the 100-yard mark on the touchdown run.
The Bengals built their lead over the Browns to 14 points, 31-17, with 4:19 to play in the third quarter when kicker Mike Nugent converted a 36-yard field goal.
On the first play of the drive, Dalton threw a pass deep down the right side of the field for Green, and the veteran Pro Bowl pass catcher hauled in the reception with just one hand for a gain of 48 yards. The Dalton-to-Green combination moved the ball from Cincinnati’s 16-yard line to the Browns’ 36.