The Cleveland Browns beat the Cincinnati Bengals, 35-20, in their first game off the bye week. The Browns came out with a burst and put together a huge lead early. This lead turned out to be insurmountable for the Bengals. Quarterback Baker Mayfield, who completed 19 of 26 passes for 258 yards and four touchdowns, led the Browns offensive attack. With the win, the Browns move to 4-6-1 and the talk of the playoffs is something not yet out the window.
The first half for the Browns was one of the most exciting and fun halves of football I have seen from the franchise. The offense did not punt in the first half, scoring touchdowns on all but one drive in the half (the other drive was at the end of the half). Cleveland almost doubled Cincinnati in total yards, gaining 296 total yards to just 152 total yards for the Bengals. Mayfield was the star of the half as he completed 17 of 22 passes for 245 yards and three touchdowns. But, the defense was also impressive for the Browns. It held Cincinnati to just one touchdown and forced a turnover in the half. The time of possession was all Browns as the team held the ball for just over 20 minutes, while the Bengals held it for just under ten minutes. The Browns’ 28 points in the half were the most points the franchise has scored in a first half since 1991. Cleveland went into the half leading Cincinnati, 28-7.
The second half was far less than a perfect performance for the Browns. The Browns offense got another touchdown early in the third quarter after their defense recovered an errant snap by the Bengals. But, this touchdown ended the string of great play by Cleveland. The offense became way too conservative. On the next three drives, the Browns punted three times, netting a total of 36 combined yards on those drives. On the other side of the ball, the Browns defense allowed two straight touchdown-drives to Bengals backup quarterback Jeff Driskel, who came in for the injured Andy Dalton. Luckily, the Browns had driven up the lead so much that the Browns were able to thwart a possible comeback from the Bengals. The Browns took the victory, 35-20. It wasn’t pretty to end it, but overall it was a great win to start the last part of the regular season.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield was excellent in the win. He completed 19 of 26 passes for 258 yards and four touchdowns. Mayfield absolutely tore the Bengals defense up in the first half. Here is a completion in the first half that summarizes how Mayfield was slinging it.
Mayfield’s top target in the game was tight end David Njoku. Njoku caught all five of his targets, netting 63 yards and a touchdown. He was a mismatch for the Bengals defense to cover. Here is the touchdown catch by Njoku that needed the entire offense to complete.
The Browns offensive line had another great game in pass protection. The line kept Mayfield clean for the most part, allowing Mayfield to run through his progressions and to pick apart the defense. The line allowed zero sacks in the game. Here is an example of the time Mayfield had to go through his progressions because of the great pass protection.
The Browns defense was solid today in their usual form of giving up yards, but negating that by taking the ball away. The Browns defense caused the Bengals to turn the ball over two times, with both turnovers leading to touchdowns. The defense also forced two series to end on downs. Here is the first turnover of the game where safety Damarious Randall intercepted a pass and then handed it to former Browns head coach Hue Jackson.
The only sort of negative in the game was the finish to the game. The Browns offense became way too conservative midway through the third quarter. The offense stopped producing, leading the Bengals to make the game closer than it should have been. The Bengals offense was able to put together a lot of long drives in the second half. The Browns won comfortably, but the finish to the game by the Browns was less than ideal.