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Ending on a high note: Cleveland Browns finish season with 21-16 win over Cincinnati Bengals

D'Ernest Johnson ran for 123 yards and a touchdown while the defense registered four sacks.

CLEVELAND — It was an otherwise disappointing season, but the ending was still somewhat positive for the Browns.

Cleveland ended its 2021 campaign with a 21-16 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday afternoon. The victory gives the team a final record of 8-9 on the year, and also snaps a three-game losing streak.

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With Cincy having already clinched the AFC North, several starters were either absent or limited, including both regular quarterbacks. Despite committing a pair of costly turnovers, Case Keenum won his second start of the year by throwing for 176 yards and two touchdowns.

The star of the offense was D'Ernest Johnson, who ran for 123 yards and a score. Jarvis Landry had six catches for 75 yards and a TD in what could have potentially been his last game as a Brown, while Myles Garrett registered one of four Cleveland sacks against Bengals QB Brandon Allen, adding to his franchise record of 16 on the year.

Cincinnati managed just 182 yards of offense, but cut into a 14-0 deficit when Trayvon Henderson took a Keenum fumble back for a touchdown. The Browns seemed certain to extend that lead just before halftime, but Keenum was intercepted in the end zone by Mike Hilton, and it remained a 14-7 game at the break.

Cleveland made it 21-10 in the fourth quarter on a 10-yard receiving TD by Demetric Felton, only for Cincy to close the gap to 5 on a Chris Evans scoring grab. The subsequent onside kick was bobbled about four different times, but the Browns recovered and ran out the clock to preserve the win.

Despite finishing with a losing record for the 20th time in 23 seasons after entering with Super Bowl expectations, the Browns have now beaten the Bengals in seven of their last eight meetings, including both times this year. It's also just the second time since 2010 that they have ended the regular season with a win.

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What follows is a drive-by-drive recap of today's action, with the most recent plays and updates closest to the top. Stay tuned for more analysis all afternoon long on both 3News and WKYC.com.


0:00: Another nice run by D'Ernest Johnson and a Case Keenum sneak give the Browns a first down, as well as the win.

2:23: Harrison Bryant boots the onside kick recovery, but after a massive scrum and a long process to sort it out, the officials give the Browns the ball at the Cincy 48.

2:26 - Browns 21, Bengals 16: On fourth-and-1 from the Cleveland 4, Brandon Allen runs a naked bootleg and finds Chris Evans for the touchdown. His 2-point conversion pass is incomplete, and with no timeouts left, the Bengals will have to attempt an onside kick.

7:14 - Browns 21, Bengals 10: The offense finds its groove with a six-minute drive, and Demetric Felton caps it off by taking Case Keenum's pass in for a 10-yard touchdown.

13:14: Cleveland's defense records huge a three-and-out. On the ensuing punt return, Donovan Peoples-Jones coughs it up, but the Browns recover at the Cincy 46-yard line.

14:13: The Browns return the favor by driving downfield on the strength of their running game, but they can't finish the job as Case Keenum's pass on fourth-and-goal from the 2 is dropped by Donovan Peoples-Jones. Cincy takes over backed up against their goal line.

In other news, linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is out for the game with a leg injury.


5:01 - Browns 14, Bengals 10: Cincy burns more than eight minutes off the clock with a 14-play drive to get deep into Cleveland territory, but a Myles Garrett sack of Brandon Allen forces a 36-yard field goal by Elliott Fry.

13:37: The Browns start the second half by going three-and-out, as Case Keenum misses Jarvis Landry on a second-down throw. Dustin Colquitt boots another short punt that puts the Bengals at their own 30.


Earlier in the game, the Browns formally honored Doug Dieken by renaming their radio booth in his honor.


0:00: A great drive ends with another Case Keenum mistake, as his pass into the end zone is tipped before being intercepted by Mike Hilton. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by Wyatt Teller after the return will allow the Bengals to kick off from the 50 when the third quarter starts, but for now, we head into halftime.

3:28 - Browns 14, Bengals 7: This time, it's Case Keenum who fumbles the ball on a sack by Wyatt Ray, and Trayvon Henderson is able to scoop it up and take it in for a 29-yard touchdown.

4:58: A promising Cincy drive is derailed after Jadeveon Clowney forces a Brandon Allen fumble. Even though Cleveland can't recover it, it still results in a third-and-33 for the Bengals, and two plays later Kevin Huber punts for the sixth time. Donovan Peoples-Jones makes the fair catch at his own 16.

7:56: The Browns go three-and-out, although the Bengals suffer an untimely blow as corner Vernon Hargreaves III has to be carted off the field. Dustin Colquitt's punt travels a mere 22 yards, giving the Bengals the ball at their own 28.

9:45: Yet another Bengals three-and-out ends with Brandon Allen taking a shot from Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney. He gingerly walks off the field as Donovan Peoples-Jones returns Kevin Huber's fifth straight punt to the Browns 21.

11:22 - Browns 14, Bengals 0: Jarvis Landry makes a diving catch for a 13-yard gain, and a helmet-to-helmet hit by Ricardo Allen moves Cleveland even closer to the goal line. Two plays later, D'Ernest Johnson scores from 4 yards out.

14:04: On third down, Jadeveon Clowney gets his eighth sack of the year, although he merely had to tap Brandon Allen after the QB fell down. A Browns offsides penalty nullifies the first punt, but Kevin Huber shanks his second attempt and it goes out of bounds at the Cleveland 42.


0:56 - Browns 7, Bengals 0: A 22-yard catch by Donovan Peoples-Jones and a 14-yard run by Nick Chubb get Cleveland deep in Cincinnati territory, setting up a 26-yard touchdown grab by Jarvis Landry from Case Keenum.

4:14: Two Trayveon Williams runs give the Bengals a first down, but three straight incompletions by Brandon Allen stop the drive in its tracks. Donovan Peoples-Jones returns Kevin Huber's punt to the Browns 21.

1:28 p.m.: Beyond the gridiron, this will be the final game for longtime Browns radio color analyst Doug Dieken, who is retiring after 50 years with the organization as a player and broadcaster. He was a Pro Bowl left tackle as a member of the "Kardiac Kids," and went on to call games with Nev Chandler, Casey Coleman, and 3News' own Jim Donovan.

5:54: Case Keenum scrambles for a first down, but three plays later his third-down pass to a wide-open Anthony Schwartz is dropped. This time, Dustin Colquitt's punt goes 56 yards, with Trent Taylor returning it to the Cincinnati 20.

9:00: Ja'Marr Chase starts the drive with a catch-and-run that gives him 1,455 yards on the year, breaking Chad Johnson's single-season Bengals record set back in 2007.

After the rookie exits, the Cincy offense stalls (partly thanks to another penalty), and Kevin Huber's subsequent punt rolls into the end zone for a touchback.

10:59: Now it's the Browns' turn to go three-and-out, with Nick Chubb being stuffed in the backfield on third-and-2. Dustin Colquitt's punt goes just 35 yards, and Trent Taylor makes the fair catch at his own 28.

13:02: The Bengals start the game with a three-and-out, with a false start penalty aiding the Browns efforts. Kevin Huber's punt is fielded by Donovan Peoples-Jones, who is promptly stood up at his own 29-yard line.


Noon: Besides Baker Mayfield, Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward is out after being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. The following players are also inactive:

  • RB Kareem Hunt (ankle)
  • G Hjalte Froholdt
  • CB Troy Hill (knee)
  • DT Sheldon Day
  • S Ronnie Harrison Jr. (ankle)
  • S Richard LeCounte III

For the Bengals, Brandon Allen will start at quarterback in place of Joe Burrow.

11:30 a.m.: Check out pics from the final Muni Lot tailgate of the season!