When it rains, it pours – or something like that. Just when some of us thought the Cleveland Browns saw some silver linings in a comeback effort that came up just short in Indianapolis last week, this effort happens. The Browns lost a game, that after the first quarter, was never particularity close. The 31-7 score somehow feels closer than it actually was as the Browns narrowly avoided being shutout thanks to a late Duke Johnson one-yard touchdown run. The offense couldn’t muster any kind of rhythm, and the defense just seemed helpless at times against the Bengals duo of backup tight end Tyler Kroft and wide receiver A.J. Green. There really isn’t anything positive that can be taken away from today’s overall effort.
The offense was out of sorts right from the jump as Cleveland went three and out (thanks to a Kenny Britt meaningless false start on third-and-short) and continued their trend of slow starts on their first possession. After the punt, the Bengals had the ball close to midfield when we saw what may be the lone highlight of the day. Andy Dalton dropped back on second down and was strip sacked by Emmanuel Ogbah. The defensive end found a way to recover it for what seemed like a momentum-shifting turnover.
From there the Browns were unable to muster much of anything and another Kenny Britt mishap on third down forced a long field goal – one which unfortunately Zane Gonzalez missed and gave the Bengals life. Much of the first quarter showed two 0-3 teams battling to hand the other team the chance to win the game.
Then the second quarter happened. The Bengals found some offensive rhythm and the Browns kept shooting themselves in the foot. An early seven-yard touchdown from Dalton to AJ Green put the Bengals up 7-0 and gave Browns fans more bullets to fire at Jabrill Peppers. The Browns responded with a nice drive, but unfortunately Britt couldn’t string consecutive nice plays together and made this mistake when Kizer needed him on third-and-9:
After the turnover, the Bengals scored on a long 13-play drive capped off by a three-yard touchdown pass from Dalton to Tyler Kroft, giving the Bengals a 14-0 lead. The Browns then went three and out with just a few minutes remaining in the quarter. Cleveland then needed a stop to keep the game within two scores and what happened was….not that.
The untouched nature of the screen play was indicative of the type of effort we saw all day. The 21-0 halftime deficit was essentially rendering the rest of the game useless and the Browns couldn’t muster much of an effort against a Bengals defense that seemed to know what was coming from the Browns offense.
Kizer was only able to lead the browns offense to the tune of 118 yards passing, going 16-of-34 on the day with an interception. Mix in 45 total rushing yards on 17 attempts between Isaiah Crowell, Duke Johnson, and Matthew Dayes and that’s the recipe for an anemic offense.
Although Gregg Williams’ defense was able to keep the Bengals’ run game in check, they helped Dalton get back on track as he threw for 265 yards on 25-of-30 with four touchdowns. A majority of those throws were with the middle of the field wide open, or routes being run with little resistance.
Not much can be said to spin this thing positively. Between reports of unrest between the front office and coaching staff prior to the game and this effort from the team, it’s as close to rock bottom as the Browns have been in years. Four wins in their last 41 games equals an unhappy fan base and an even more restless group in Berea. Wholesale changes don’t need to be made based on one poor performance, but the direction we are seeing is worrisome. All we can see is the group continue to get healthy, and keep working toward a better result. Getting Jamie Collins, Myles Garrett, and Danny Shelton back will help. Hopefully playing the Jets next week will help as well, but then again, New York has won their last two games.