RECAP: Cleveland Browns struggle mightily in 31-7 loss to Cincinnati Bengals

3:58 p.m.-CLEVELAND BROWNS FALL TO CINCINNATI BENGALS, 31-7, IN ‘THE BATTLE OF OHIO’

CLEVELAND -- With a pair of winless teams facing off in “The Battle of Ohio” between the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals, something had to give in the AFC North Division matchup at FirstEnergy Stadium Sunday.

Unfortunately, that something was the Browns’ defense against the Bengals (1-3).

Despite fumbling on the first drive of the game, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton completed 25 of his 30 attempts for 286 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions and spread the ball out to nine different players on the way to engineering a 31-7 victory over the Browns (0-4).

2:59 p.m.-DALTON TO KROFT DOES IT AGAIN

CLEVELAND -- In addition to finding wide receiver A.J. Green and utilizing his running backs, quarterback Andy Dalton has always been comfortable using the tight ends, and even with his No. 1 option, Tyler Eifert, inactive, the veteran continues to successfully turn his progressions into touchdowns.

On the second drive of the second half, Dalton found tight end Tyler Kroft for a 16-yard touchdown pass, and their second scoring combination of the game gave the Cincinnati Bengals a 31-0 lead over the Cleveland Browns with 3:37 to play in the third quarter of “The Battle of Ohio.”

The Dalton-to-Kroft touchdown was the fifth play of at least 10 yards for the Bengals on the 10-play, 83-yard drive.

2:43 p.m.-BENGALS ADD ONTO LEAD WITH FIELD GOAL

CLEVELAND -- The Cincinnati Bengals started the second half of “The Battle of Ohio” against the Cleveland Browns with a 10-play, 52-yard drive that kicker Randy Bullock finished off with a 41-yard field goal.

Bullock’s conversion gave the Bengals a 24-0 lead over the Browns with 11:28 to play in the third quarter from FirstEnergy Stadium.

2:12 p.m.-BENGALS TACK ON ANOTHER TD

CLEVELAND -- Quarterback Andy Dalton completed a 61-yard touchdown pass to running back Giovani Bernard and gave the Cincinnati Bengals a 21-0 lead over the Cleveland Browns with 47 seconds remaining in the first half of “The Battle of Ohio” at FirstEnergy Stadium.

On first-and-10 at the 39-yard line, the Browns brought a heavy rush up the middle, and seeing the heat coming, Dalton flared out a pass to Bernard on the right side of the formation. With a pulling guard neutralizing the pursuit of rookie safety Jabrill Peppers down the field, Bernard hustled his way into the end zone for the touchdown.

Prior to the touchdown pass, Dalton completed two throws to backup tight end Tyler Kroft for a pair of 11-yard gains.

The Bengals needed just three plays to travel 83 yards after an illegal block penalty negated a 44-yard punt return.

2:00 p.m.- BENGALS EXTEND LEAD OVER BROWNS

CLEVELAND -- Quarterback Andy Dalton threw a three-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tyler Kroft and gave the Cincinnati Bengals a 14-0 lead over the Cleveland Browns with 2:34 to play in the first half of “The Battle of Ohio” at FirstEnergy Stadium.

With a second-and-goal from the Cleveland three-yard line, Dalton took the shotgun snap, froze Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey and finished off his 13-play, 88-yard drive when he side-armed a throw into the end zone for his second passing touchdown of the game.

Earlier in the drive, Dalton completed a 25-yard pass to wide receiver A.J. Green, who had inside position on Browns defensive back Jason McCourty and used his speed to create enough separation for the pass. The Browns gave up additional yards when McCourty was whistled for a horse-collar tackle.

Also, on a third-and-15 from Cincinnati’s 27-yard line, Dalton found Kroft for a 21-yard gain and a new set of downs.

1:34 p.m.-BENGALS TAKE LEAD OVER BROWNS

CLEVELAND -- Andy Dalton’s seven-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver A.J. Green gave the Cincinnati Bengals a 7-0 lead over the Cleveland Browns with 14:56 to play in the first half of “The Battle of Ohio” from FirstEnergy Stadium.

Facing a third-and-six from Cleveland’s seven-yard line, Dalton took the shotgun snap and lofted a pass toward the left back corner of the end zone, where Green hauled it in and got two feet down in bounds after getting behind the coverage of rookie safety Jabrill Peppers.

The Bengals needed nine plays and 5:21 to go just 35 yards after a 40-yard return from defensive back Adam Jones on a Britton Colquitt punt set up the offense with a short field deep in Cleveland territory.

12:00 p.m.-GAME INFORMATION

CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Browns have struggled with consistency on the offensive side of the football through the first three weeks of the 2017 regular season, and it has led to a pair of losses within the AFC North Division, to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, as well as a road loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

And while the Browns have averaged less than 19 points per game over the first three weeks of the season, veteran players and coaches alike are confident they will get things turned around sooner rather than later.

“We are getting closer,” 10-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas said.

“I think we still have a ways to go, but that is why we come out here and practice every day. We have made some nice progress. I thought our quarterback had his best game last week, and I hope that he can continue that progress and give us a chance to be the offense that we can be.”

A key to finding that consistency on offense is starting faster.

The Browns have scored just seven points in the first quarter and 21 in the second, an average of 4.67 points per period in the first halves of their opening three games.

“Whether it is penalties, whether it is turnovers, we have had all of the self-inflicted wounds that you can have, and that is very uncharacteristic of kind of who we are,” Browns coach Hue Jackson said. “We have to clean those things up.

“We have to not beat ourselves first and foremost so that we can make those plays. You don’t want to be in third-and-long situations, and we have been in quite a bit of those early in games. I take full responsibility for that. We just have to continue to get better at it and do better, and I think our guys will.”

Coming into the season, the Browns wanted to feature run-based offense. However, they have been outscored, 63-28, in the first half over the first three games, and have switched to a pass-heavy base.

The Browns are hopeful that a fast start against the Cincinnati Bengals in front of the home fans at FirstEnergy Stadium will allow them to run the ball the way they want to and wear out the clock in the second half on the way to their first win of the season.

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11:30 a.m.-CLEVELAND BROWNS DL MYLES GARRETT INACTIVE FOR TODAY’S GAME AGAINST CINCINNATI BENGALS

CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Browns will have to wait at least another week to get rookie defensive lineman Myles Garrett onto the field on game day.

For the fourth straight week, Garrett is inactive because of a high ankle sprain and will miss his third straight game against an AFC North Division foe, as he will sit out “The Battle of Ohio” against the Cincinnati Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium today.

Listed as “questionable” after being limited in Thursday and Friday’s practices, Garrett is unable to go against the Bengals. However, when Garrett, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, does return, his teammates understand the kind of difference he will make for the Browns.

“Really, the role that he is going to have the biggest impact is as a third-down pass rusher and as a second-and-long pass rusher,” 10-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas said.

“He is great against the run, don’t get me wrong, but the impact that a pass rusher can make is huge for a defense. If he can’t play on first down or even second down, that is okay with us. We have a lot of guys that can defend against the run. Where he is going to be a difference maker is third down rushing the passer.”

Injured in the first practice of the regular season ahead of the Browns’ 21-18 home loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Garrett was able to progress to the point where he ran and did light individual work leading up to last Sunday’s loss at the Indianapolis Colts, and then, increased the workload even more this week.

Albeit on a limited basis, Garrett returned to practice for the first time since the injury on Thursday.

“There was one time where he came right off the edge, dusted the tackle and it would have been a sack if we were allowed to touch the quarterbacks in practice,” linebacker Joe Schobert said. “The whole offensive line was kind of giving him a little because, ‘Oh, Myles is out here?’ Saying stuff because it is his first time back and he has been missing. He looks good.”

In 34 games over his three years at Texas A&M, Garrett registered 141 total tackles, including 81 solo stops and 60 assists, with 31.0 quarterback sacks, seven forced fumbles, one recovery, five passes defended and one interception.

Garrett registered two tackles, including a sack for a nine-yard loss, during three preseason games with the Browns.

“A huge boost,” veteran defensive back Jason McCourty said. “He is another player for us. The more weapons you have, the better you are going to be. When Jamie (Collins Sr.) is back out there, it will be another weapon. When you get your players back out there, it is a good feeling to have, and you know what those guys bring to the table.

“I just believe in football, the better players you have out there, the better you are going to be. It sounds so simple, but I just think that is what it is. Myles was the No. 1 overall pick for a reason. I think we all know he possesses a special type of talent. Just having that caliber of talented player out on the field, we will all benefit from it.”

© 2017 WKYC-TV


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