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Round One to the Browns

Well, as I fretted earlier this week, the Bengals did not match their opponent’s early intensity and were not aided by multiple turnovers.  As a result, their late comeback bid fell short and they fell to the previously winless Browns, 23-20. 

Today, it was the Bengals who hurt themselves with turnovers as two Bengal fumbles inside their own territory led to Browns scores. Penalties and poor offensive line play were also killers, as a late push into Cleveland territory was negated due to a sack and an offensive pass interference penalty that ultimately drove the Bengals out of tying field goal range. 

They had a previous attempt in the first half blocked. 

The Browns jumped out to a 10-0 lead through the first quarter and a half thanks to jittery offensive play, penalties and a seemingly sleepwalking defense.  Phil Dawson hit from 30 yards out, and then QB Seneca Wallace hit TE Evan Moore for a 24 yard touchdown over safety Chris Crocker.

After a Mike Nugent field goal got the Bengals to within a touchdown at 10-3, the Bengals got the ball back and stopped playing tentatively.

Carson Palmer finally hooked up with Terrell Owens on a deep pass as T.O. beat Sheldon Brown down the sideline for 78 yards and a 10-10 tie.  After CB Leon Hall collected his third interception in three games to set the Bengals up in good field position, Nugent’s long attempt was blocked by Browns LB Scott Fujita.  The resulting shift in field position allowed Wallace and the Browns offense to get into field goal range, where Dawson was good from 31. 

The Browns opened the second half with another strong drive, going 64 yards in 6:06, finishing with RB Peyton Hillis’ one yard plunge and a 20-10 lead.  After a Carson Palmer fumble on the next possession, the Browns converted the turnover into another score, with Dawson connecting from 22.  

At 23-10, things were looking very gloomy for the men in stripes, but they responded. 

Finally realizing that perhaps, just perhaps, the no-huddle, pass-first offense is their best option (finally!!!) the team began moving the ball.  First, they got a field goal from Nugent from 25 yards out, then quickly started the fourth quarter off with a touchdown shovel pass from Palmer to Brian Leonard to get to 23-20. 

The Bengal defense came through on the next Browns possession, forcing a 47-yard punt to the Cincy 14 yard line.  Palmer began directing what looked to be a sure tying or go-ahead drive, as the Bengals quickly moved to the Browns 31-yard line.  But a 3rd-and 3 incompletion to Chad Ochocinco became a 10 yard penalty for offensive pass interference, and the ensuing play saw Palmer sacked by DE Matt Roth who beat Dennis Roland, knocking the Bengals out of even Nugent’s range.

 Marvin Lewis would rely on his defense one more time, but the normally-strong defenders couldn’t deliver this time. 

The Browns started at their own 11 yard line, and on first down Wallace’s pass fell incomplete.  On second and 10 Hillis was stopped for a one-yard gain, which looked to set up a 3rd and 9, but the refs called DT Pat Sims with an inexplicable defensive holding call, which gave Cleveland a fresh set of downs. Five consecutive runs by Hillis sealed it for the Browns, with the Bengals’ last gasp being thwarted as Hillis was able to get to the corner and race for 24 yards for another first down and the Bengals out of time outs. 

The Browns pick-up their first victory of the season and go to 1-3.  Cincinnati falls to 2-2 and their division winning streak halts at eight, tying for the most ever.  The Bengals go back home to face an improved Tampa Bay Buccaneers team, who were on a bye this week.

First Reactions: 

  • Once again, the Bengals played down to their competition, and did not take advantage of opportunities early.  When that happens, and teams hang around, bad things happen.
  • As I mentioned in my pre-game primer, the Bengals won’t get four turnovers every week which bails out the offense.  This week it was true. In fact, it was the Bengals giving up short fields due to turnovers and it cost them.
  • The no-huddle works.  I realize Marvin Lewis wants to be a run-first, grind-it-out team, but I just don’t think they have the offensive line to do it. They found their identity to me today—its to be more like 2005 and 2006 on offense.  Why is that such a problem anyway?  They now have the defense they didn’t have back then to compliment it.
  • Speaking of the O-line, are Roland and Livings really the best options?? When will Andre Smith prove to be a starting tackle?  How about a starting guard?  Collins was a decent left tackle once.  He can’t replace Roland or Livings?  Time to start tinkering, Paul.
  • With the most extended no-huddle playing time of the season, the team racked up 413 total yards.  Palmer’s 371 yards were like the old days.
  • Terrell Owens was finally a factor in the offense, with 10 receptions for 222 yards and a touchdown.  T.O. looked tough and reliable for Palmer, picking up several first downs and getting yards after the catch with hard running.
  • Speaking of T.O., today he moved into second place all time for receiving yards and fifth place all time for receptions.  Both were previously held by WR Isaac Bruce.  Congrats to you, Mr. Owens, glad you did it as a Bengal. 
  • Nugent’s blocked field goal proved costly.  He makes that kick at the Bengals could have been driving for the win and not the tie at the end.
  • Penalties continue to plague this team.  The offensive line had some costly ones, but the defense was also racked with them, which helped along several Cleveland drives.
  • Chris Crocker, the guy most concerned about playing down to the competition, had a pretty bad game, getting beat by Evan Moore on the Browns’ first touchdown and getting caught behind in coverage.
  • May I ask again for Bernard Scott to get some more carries?
  • I hope Jordan Shipley is okay.  TJ Ward should be fined heavily for that hit.  I don’t know if it was a cheap shot or not, but it definitely looked vicious.
  • With Baltimore beating Pittsburgh, had the Bengals won they would be on top of the division with the tiebreakers.  Now, they are looking up at both the Steelers and the Ravens who are both 3-1. 

That’s all for now.  I’ll plan to puke and hope I feel better tomorrow.

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