The Cleveland Browns are still winless. The Browns lost their 11th game of the season, falling to the Cincinnati Bengals on the road, 30-16. The Browns once again had chances to possibly pull out a win, but mistakes, poor play and a bad call (in my opinion) killed any of those chances. The Browns actually outgained the Bengals in the game, 405 total yards to 361 total yards, but the scoreboard still went in the way of the Bengals. Here is how the game transpired.
The Browns offense opened the game up with an impressive drive, leaning heavily on the run game. Cleveland posted 50 yards rushing on the opening drive, but the team’s struggles in the red zone emerged again, causing the drive to stall and the team to settle for the field goal. The Browns lead did not last, as the Bengals drove 75 yards to the end zone to take the early 7-3 lead. The Browns looked like they were going to respond to the Bengals touchdown, but a huge taunting penalty by receiver Bryce Treggs killed the momentum of the drive, causing the Browns to have to try for a 43-yard field goal, which was missed by kicker Zane Gonzalez. After one quarter, the Browns trailed the Bengals 7-3.
The Bengals first offensive drive of the second quarter looked very similar to their first drive of the game. Cincinnati was able to tear up the Browns run defense, including quarterback Andy Dalton pulling off a 25-yard scramble. But this time, the Browns made a play to stop the drive from getting into the end zone. Edge rusher Myles Garrett picked up his fifth sack of the season, stopping the Bengals drive in its tracks and forcing the Bengals to settle for a field goal. Following that field goal, Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer left the game for a drive with a possible concussion, forcing the Browns to go to Cody Kessler. In Kessler’s only drive, he managed to lead the offense to negative nine yards in three plays. The Bengals followed that successful defensive stand with another field goal, making their lead, 13-3. The Browns got some good news on the next drive with the return of Kizer, but Kizer was unable to do anything on his first drive after returning from the possible concussion. The Bengals continued their field goal party, adding their third of the day and making their lead, 16-3. However, the Browns did not give up and call it a half. Kizer led the offense 75 yards in a two-minute offense. Time ended up forcing the Browns to kick the field goal, but the Browns were able to chisel the deficit a little with the field goal, ending the half trailing, 16-6.
Cincinnati opened the second half with what seemed to be an omen for the rest of the half. The Bengals strolled 78 yards to the end zone in ten plays to make the score, 23-6. Though, the Browns had different ideas. The offense responded with a sustained drive that should have netted a touchdown, but receiver Corey Coleman dropped a perfect dime in the end zone from Kizer, resulting in the Browns having to settle for another field goal. The momentum stayed on the Browns side as the defense stopped the Bengals on the next drive, giving the Cleveland offense solid field position to possibly cut the deficit down. But, Hue Jackson’s play calling waved its ugly head. On a 3rd-and-1 at the Cincinnati 44-yard line, with the run game humming, Jackson called a play-action pass that ended up getting Kizer sacked, along with any momentum or hope of the Browns cutting the deficit. At the end of three quarters, the Browns still trailed the Bengals, 23-9.
The Browns defense stepped up again to start the fourth quarter, forcing their second straight punt of the half. This time the Browns offense took advantage of the stop. Kizer and the offense traveled 89 yards to pay dirt in 15 plays, converting multiple fourth-down plays on their way to the end zone. Kizer’s three-yard touchdown run made the Browns deficit, 23-16. The Browns defense had a chance to give the ball back to the offense to tie the game up, but a questionable penalty killed any chance of that happening. Dalton threw a beautiful pass to receiver Josh Malone, but Browns safety Jabrill Peppers broke up the pass with a crushing hit on Malone. Though, the refs called an unnecessary roughness penalty on Peppers for the hit, negating the third-down stop and giving the Bengals new life on the drive. The call, in my opinion, was wrong. Peppers hit the receiver in the chest with his helmet and the receiver was not defenseless because he had already taken multiple steps after the catch before Peppers hit him. The call ended any real chance for a Browns comeback as the Bengals capitalized on the call, driving down to the end zone for a win-cementing touchdown. The Browns offense tried to start a miracle, but the Bengals held strong and turned the Browns over on downs. In the end, the Browns lost their 11th game of the season, falling to the Cincinnati Bengals, 30-16.
As with most of the games this season, we are forced to look for silver linings and bright spots in losses. I think Kizer was one of those silver linings. Kizer finished the game completing 18 of 31 passes for 268 yards, while also rushing for 39 yards and a touchdown. After a rough game last week, Kizer rebounded to play a good game that kept the Browns alive for most of regulation. Nevertheless, the Browns lost the game and the team is still looking for a win.
The Browns will look for win No. 1 next week in San Diego as the team travels to play the Chargers.