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1-0! Cleveland Browns ride strong defense, kicking game to 24-3 season-opening win over Cincinnati Bengals

New kicker Dustin Hopkins made all three of his field goal tries, and Joe Burrow was held to just 82 yards passing.

CLEVELAND β€” Maybe you can't call this a "perfect game," but after all of their struggles a season ago, the Browns certainly have a lot to be proud of on this Sunday.

A 24-3 victory over your in-state rivals will do that, as Cleveland pummeled the two-time defending AFC North champion Cincinnati Bengals all afternoon long. Key to the effort was a stifling new-look defense, timely offensive plays, a strong kicking game, and maybe even a little bit of the elements.

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Rain off the shores of Lake Erie persisted throughout the day, and seemed to play a negative role in the performances of both quarterbacks. The Browns' Deshaun Watson was a relatively pedestrian 16 of 29 for 154 yards, but Bengals star Joe Burrow was even worse, completing just 14 of 31 passes for a mere 82 yards and a 52.2 passer rating.

However, Watson was able to make plays when it mattered, notably toward the end of the first half. With the clock winding down and Cleveland up 3-0, the $230 million QB decided to take it himself for a 13-yard touchdown run, extending the advantage to 10-0 at intermission. Watson would finish the game with 45 rushing yards on five carries.

Cincinnati would get back to within a score following a field goal, but after a Watson interception, Evan McPherson then missed from 51 yards out. That was in contrast to new Browns kicker Dustin Hopkins, who converted all three of his attempts to pad the lead.

But the story of this game was Cleveland's defense, now led by respected defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. The secondary was all over receivers Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, and the front four got through for a pair of sacks.

The biggest play came early in the fourth quarter, when the Bengals decided to go for it on fourth-and-4 from their own 31. Myles Garrett took Burrow down for the sack, setting up a short Browns drive that ended with a three-yard TD pass from Watson to Harrison Bryant.

In total, Cincinnati was held to just 142 yards of offense on the day, compared to 350 for Cleveland. Nick Chubb also ran for 106 yards on 18 carries.

This was the 100th edition of the "Battle of Ohio," which dates back to October of 1970. While the Bengals still lead the all-time series 53-47, the Browns have now taken nine of the last 11, including five of six against Burrow.

Cleveland will head to Pittsburgh next week for a "Monday Night Football" matchup against the Steelers, who began the year with a 30-7 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

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