My opening thoughts: Bengals 23 Browns 10
Demons exorcized. Streak over. The Bengals snapped a five game losing streak to the Browns and Joe Burrow beat them for the first time in his career, 23-10 Sunday at Paycor Stadium. They had to do it without two starting receivers and their top tight end. But once again others stepped up.
The Bengals have won five in a row, 7 of 8 and 9 of 11 to move to 9-4 overall. The Ravens, down to 3rd string QB Anthony Brown, beat the Steelers 16-14 to move to 9-4.
After being out rushed 172-36 in the first matchup, the Bengals flipped the script to outgain the Browns 136-71 on the ground.
Early injury issues: Tyler Boyd injured his finger (dislocated) on a catch attempt on the 2nd snap of the game. Tee Higgins played one snap before he was done with a hamstring that cropped up on Thursday. They were already without TE Hayden Hurst.
Burrow: 18 of 33, 239 yards, 2 TD, INT, 1 sack, QB rating 85.3. He was off the mark early, missing three makeable first quarter throws and started 4 of 12 and was 9 of 21 at the half. He did thread the needle on a tight window 15-yard TD dart to Ja'Marr Chase. He connected with seven different receivers. He had another pass picked off on a deflection, that's an NFL high 25 deflections this season. Myles Garrett sacked him, again, and batted down two screen passes. Burrow has 11 turnovers vs AFC North and 0 vs rest of NFL. He's thrown a TD in an NFL best 20 straight games. He used his legs to convert two 3rd downs (3rd & 3, 3rd & 3) and scrambled to created a 3rd and 10 completion.
Big number: Chase 10 catches, 119 yards, TD on 15 targets + he drew a 33 yard pass interference.
Ground attack: 26 carries/136 yards (5.2). Joe Mixon 14 carries/96 yards (6.9). Runs of 12, 12 and 40 yards. Samaje Perine 4 carries/22 yards. He had a beauty of 6-yard second effort/redirect for TD and rolled 14 yards on another carry.
Still want him benched? Last two full games for Mixon: 36 carries/249 yards (6.9), 4 TD, 6 catches/68 yards TD.......317 yards total offense/5 TD.
Next WR up: Trenton Irwin: 2-58, including a wiiiiiiiiide open 45-yard flea-flicker TD (career long) to make it 20-3 in the 3rd quarter. Trent Taylor 1-34 (career long).
Slow start to a ramp up: The 1st quarter was certainly disjointed with four drives/four punts. They used one timeout to save a delay of game and lost another on a challenge. They failed to score in the 1st quarter, making it no points in 4 of last 5 quarters vs Browns. But they finished the half with back-to-back TD drives, 9 plays/85 yards and 9 plays/75 yards.
Well done: Held Nick Chubb to 14 carries/34 yards (2.4). He had two runs of 7 and 13 yards and 12 runs for 14 yards. He went for 23-101-2 TD in the first meeting. Amari Cooper 2 catches/42 yards on 7 targets after 7-131-TD in the first meeting.
Lockdown: The Bengals have faced two of the top three NFL rushers in the last three games: No. 2 Nick Chubb and No. 3 Derrick Henry combined: 31 carries for 72 yards (2.3). In between, they held Patrick Mahomes to a season low 223 yards passing.
Stop it! DJ Reader was a monster....5 solo tackles. He batted down another pass, a 3rd and 5 attempt that forced a FG. That's four passes knocked down in three games since his return. Reader hauled down Chubb for no gain on the first play of 3rd quarter and they forced a three and out. Jessie Bates picked off Watson in the 4th quarter at 23-10. BJ Hill batted down a pass. Sam Hubbard had a 3rd down sack. That’s sacks in three straight games and 6.5 on the year.
You go, Logan: Logan Wilson had 17 tackles, including 11 on 31 Browns first half snaps. He teamed with Vonn Bell for a sack on 3rd & 8 on second drive of second half.
Watson: 26-42-276. He threw his first TD in 707 days. The Bengals have not allowed a 300 yard passing game over the last 15 regular season games, dating back to Week 16 of last year. They are 1 of 5 teams without allowing one this season.
4th and done: Cam Taylor Britt broke up a 4th & goal end zone pass from the 6-yard line with 5:29 remaining. The rookie had a really nice game. He might be overly aggressive at times, but the dude appears fearless.
Kevin! Facing 4th & 1 from the Bengals 25 on the opening drive, Brown coach Kevin Stefanski elected to go for it. He brought in Jacoby Brissett to throw incomplete to the end zone? No points. Stefanski had Watson throwing on 3rd and 2 on opening drive of second half (incomplete).
Evan McPherson missed a PAT and kicked a 30-yard FG.
Dru Chrisman was clobbered on a 4th and 15 roughing the kicker. It kept the drive alive and ended in a TD. He had a 25-yard shank in the 4th QT.
Special teams penalties continue to dog this team with penalties on Trey Flowers and Dax Hill.
Banged up: Mike Hilton hobbled on the first (knee) on the first defensive series, but returned. Joseph Ossai went to the blue tent (shoulder) in 3rd QT. He emerged from the ten with a harness and eventually returned. Clay Johnston was examined for a concussion.
Go for it. The Browns went for it on 4th down six times, converting three.
Flag on the play: The teams combined for 10 first half penalties (7 Browns/3 Bengals). Four Browns penalties for 58 yards aided the Bengals first TD drive (9 plays/85 yards). Total: Browns 9-98, Bengals 4-36.
Had I told you in August the Bengals would win a December game with Trenton Irwin playing 56 snaps, Mitchell Wilcox 53, Trent Taylor 52, Tyler Boyd 2, Tee Higgins 1, Hayden Hurst 0......
Ho hum, the Bengals have guaranteed themselves a winning seasons and nobody said a peep about it.