Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Browns can’t cage the Bengals

For the first time since Week 3, maybe, the Cleveland Browns had their first team offense in uniform and on the field Sunday against Cincinnati.

So it was no surprise, really, that the Browns had one of their better offensive days of the season, scoring a first quarter touchdown for the first time this season, building a 17-7 halftime lead and scoring 20 points for only the second time all season.

Apparently, having all your starters on offense healthy and playing makes a difference.

But it wasn’t enough to pull out a win.

Peyton Hillis returned after missing six games and ran for 65 yards on 19 carries. Overall, the Browns rushed for 134 yards and a 4.5 per carry average against a Bengals defense that was giving up just 88.6 yards per game on the ground.

But it wasn’t enough.

Colt McCoy threw for two touchdowns – one to Jordan Norwood and one to Greg Little – as the Browns put up those 17 first-half points.

But it wasn’t enough.

Phil Dawson made a 54-yard field goal – his longest of the season and seventh of more than 50 yards this year – to put the Browns up 20-10 with 3:50 to go in the third quarter.

But it wasn’t enough.

Because even after the Bengals had come all the way back to tie the game, 20-20, early in the fourth quarter, the Browns still had their chances and couldn’t capitalize.

Given one last chance after the defense forced a three-and-out, the Browns took over on their own 32 with 4:52 left in the game.

McCoy drove the Browns to the Cincinnati 37 before the drive stalled and coach Pat Shurmur strangely called on Dawson for a 55-yard field goal attempt into the wind.

Need we say Dawson was not able to convert? Need we say Ryan Pontbriand’s snap rolled to holder Brad Maynard?

“I think it’s safe to say a 55-yarder in that situation, into the wind, everything needed to be smooth,” Dawson said after the game.

The miss gave the Bengals the ball at their own 45 and that’s when A.J. Green made the play of the day. Green went up to catch a poor throw from Andy Dalton and the resulting 51-yard catch-and-run put the Bengals on the Cleveland 7-yard line where, after a few plays, Mike Nugent kicked the game-winning field goal.

Green’s catch stood out even more because, in addition to catching his first touchdown pass of the season, Greg Little had 6? 7? 8? drops on the day. And most were “the ball hit him in the hands” drops.

That’s the difference between a No. 1 wide receiver taken in the first round and a converted running back drafted in the second round after not playing last year.

We don’t mean to bag on Little, and it’s not as if the Browns could have drafted Green anyway, but that comparison shows just how far the Browns still have to go to get play makers on offense.

The Browns probably deserved better than this; they probably deserved to win the game. The defense was solid for the most part – especially Jabaal Sheard, who had four tackles, one sack and one forced fumble. The Browns also held Cincinnati to just 6-of-14 on third down and didn’t let the Bengals run too wild in the rushing game.

Of course, Green’s catch came on a third down, so …

“We have to figure out (how to play with) a lead, which we haven’t really done all year, and go finish,” McCoy said. “Don’t stop. Let’s continue to make the plays that we’ve made. The defense was playing well. It’s really frustrating.”

With the Browns, it seems like it’s never, ever enough.

(Photo by The Plain Dealer)

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One thought on “Browns can’t cage the Bengals

  1. jhf44lk on said:

    Tough loss but they played their best game of the yer so far. Like you said, because most players were healthy. The Browns are not that far away. They need more depth but they do have some good players. McCoy played his best game and because of their youth they need to learn how to finish. You were right bout picking the Browns and the points!! Great article keep up the good work.

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