The game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns was a game that could give the Bengals almost total control of the AFC North if they could win, but in a loss, opened the door for the Browns and Ravens to punch in the back door. The first half of this game was as bizarre as it could get. The Browns led off with the first 13 points, all in the first quarter while the Bengals owned the second quarter with 31 points.
If that was not enough, almost none of the points were created by the offenses. Three interceptions, a fumble and two blocked punts took place just in the first thirty minutes of play. The defenses dominated this game and the Bengals special teams may have had their best game of the year, just in the second quarter.
The Browns were able to get into Bengals territory twice early in the game. One of those was courtesy of the first of Joe Haden’s two interceptions. The Bengals defense held up well and was able to hold the Browns to two field goals, which would not take look to prove costly. After going up 6-0, the Browns had a chance to break the game open. Andy Dalton threw at Haden again and this time, Haden was able to pick it off and put it in the end zone, giving the Browns a 13-0 lead.
The Browns defense was able to cause another punt, which would give the Browns the ball with a 13-0 lead and a chance to step on the throats of the Bengals. The Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson was able to deflect a pass up in the air which was caught by James Harrison that set up the Bengals with the ball at the 12 yard line. After the quarter change, Dalton found Jermaine Gresham for a Bengals touchdown which put the Bengals quickly back in the game.
After kicking off to the Browns, the Bengals defense took over and forced a three and out. Spencer Lanning’s first punt was altered by Shawn Williams resulting in a short punt and putting the Bengals in great position at the Browns 38. 25 of their yards 38 yard scoring drive were gained on a double pass that had Mohamed Sanu find Giovani Bernard for a catch that was confirmed on replay. Two plays later, Dalton found Sanu on the touchdown pass that put the Bengals up 14-13.
After neither offense was able to move the ball and exchanging punts, the Browns found themselves in position to punt again. Jayson Dimanche was able to get all of this punt and the ball rolled around for a while before recently signed Tony Dye was able to pick it up and run it into the end zone. With the extra point, the Bengals were up 21-13 and the touchdowns the Browns were unable to get early in the game came back to haunt them in short order.
On the very next drive after the teams exchanged penalties, Jason Campbell found Chris Ogbannaya in the flat and he was stripped by Vontaze Burfict on a hit. Burfict was able to pick up the ball and run it in for a touchdown. The Bengals were up 28-13 and with only three first downs in the half, they were in control of the game.
The Browns were ineffective with one drive before the half and punted to the Bengals again. This time, Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones was able to return the punt to for 27 yards and get to the 32 yard line of the Cleveland Browns. They were able to position themselves for a 41 yard field goal attempt from Mike Nugent that put the Bengals up 31-13 and complete a 31 point second quarter for the Bengals.
After the excitement of the first two quarters, the third was relatively flat. The rain came in, the defenses shut down the offenses and the two sides exchanged punts. The Browns were able to make one explosive play in the form of Campbell finding Josh Gordon for a catch down the sideline, which Gordon took for a 74 yard touchdown, making the game 31-20.
Later on, Campbell threw an interception to Reggie Nelson on an ill-advised throw into double coverage which worked about as well as their punting game had been to that point in the game. The Bengals were unable to capitalize on this initially, but the field position change came into play a little later in the game.
After some more offensive futility, the Bengals got the ball and were able to put together a drive almost entirely with the running game. Using both Benjarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard, the Bengals were able to finally wear on the Browns and get some yardage. Bernard had a big run that set up a Dalton to Alex Smith touchdown pass from the 2-yard line that put the Bengals up 38-20 early in the fourth quarter. After the Browns failed to convert on fourth down, the Bengals picked up another field goal that made it 41-20.
The Browns had a 13-0 lead heading into the second quarter and the Bengals scored 31 points in the second quarter while only having three first downs in the entire half. They scored 10 more points on the second half with a dominant 41-7 advantage after Dalton stopped throwing the ball to Haden. The Bengals offense was not productive and A.J. Green was virtually non-existent while Dalton threw for just 93 yards on the day with two interceptions, but the Bengals dominated on defense and had a remarkable day on special teams that allowed them to put the Browns away and give themselves a significant advantage in the AFC North race.