The Bengals didn't have a fantastic day, particularly Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was only 5 of 9 for 55 yards, but one of those throws was a 20-yard touchdown on another great fade route to Chris Henry, Henry's only catch of the day. With Leon Hall already having returned an interception of Ken Dorsey 50 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, that would be all the scoring the Orange & Black would need to overpower an ineffective Browns team 14-0 at Cleveland Browns Stadium. The Browns just couldn't seem to get their feet under them on the frozen tundra of upstate Ohio.
One highlight of the game for the Bengals was a career day for running back Cedric Benson, who had 38 carries for 171 yards. He did to the Browns what Jamal Lewis usually does to the Bengals. Lewis was held to 76 yards on 16 carries. The Bengals had just 246 total offensive yards for the game, while the Browns had 182 total yards. The Browns amassed 137 yards total on the ground. T.J. Houshmandzadeh did nothing most of the day but puzzlingly make poor attempts to field punts. He had no receptions. He will have to get eight next week against the Chiefs in the final game of the season to make 100 for the season, and he's in danger of missing out on 1,000 yards for the year. Anthony Collins and the rest of the offensive line had a good day, giving up no sacks and opening up space for Benson to run.
The other highlight was on defense. Hall, whose play has been inconsistent this year, came up big, adding two more interceptions after the Pick Six in the first quarter. His three interceptions tie a franchise record. John Thornton had four tackles with two sacks. Brandon Johnson had seven tackles, three assists, and an interception. Dhani Jones had six tackles and an assist, and Chinedum Ndukwe and Domata Peko each had five tackles and an assist, with Ndukwe notching a sack. Chris Crocker, a great find for the Bengals, had three tackles.
Browns quarterback Dorsey was 10 of 17 for 68 yards and three interceptions. He went out of the game in the fourth quarter with a rib injury and was spelled by Bruce Gradkowski, who was 2 of 5 for 8 yards and one interception. This was not a good day for the Browns' QBs, just as it was not really a good day for Fitz.
Of the guys on the Browns I wanted to watch today (I picked Benson, Collins, Crocker and Houshmandzadeh to keep an eye on for the Bengals), Josh Cribbs had 5 carries for 32 yards, 1 kickoff return for 24 yards, and a punt return for 24 yards, an OK day, all in all. I think during better times, Cribbs would be a better producer. Browns nose tackle Shaun Rogers had 4 tackles and an assist, doing a decent job jamming up the middle against the Bengals run and forcing a lot of the rushes to the perimeter. Joe Thomas did a decent job on the offensive line, but Eric Steinbach had a couple of missteps, contributing to a Browns' penalty count of 9 for 65 yards.
The Bengals had another competent winning effort against a team that seems poised to come apart at the seams. The offseason is going to mean a lot to both the Bengals and the Browns.
The Bengals (3-11-1) finish out the season at home next Sunday against the Chiefs, who dropped to 2-13 after losing a close game today to the Dolphins 38-31. The Browns (4-11) finish their season next Sunday on the road against the Steelers.
Around the AFC North . . .
Steelers -- The Steelers ran into a buzz saw today in Nashville, losing 31-14 to the Titans. With the win, the Titans claim homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. The Steelers host the Browns next Sunday to finish out their season.
If the Ravens can beat the Jaguars at home next Sunday, they should clinch the second AFC Wild Card bid.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
GO, AFC NORTH!!