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Game day blog: Browns at Bengals (Week 12)

By Nate Ulrich Published: November 27, 2011

Final score: Bengals 23, Browns 20 (game story; box score)

Game action

End 1Q: Browns 7, Bengals 7 -- The Browns ended their first-quarter touchdown drought during their opening drive. Quarterback Colt McCoy connected with wide receiver Jordan Norwood for a 24-yard touchdown pass with 10:55 left in the opening quarter. Norwood lined up in the slot and beat the coverage of cornerback Nate Clements to help the Browns take a 7-0 lead. Earlier during the drive, Norwood was wide open when he caught a 36-yard pass from McCoy on third-and-10 from the Browns’ 40-yard line. The Bengals marched the to the Browns’ 1 during the next series. On fourth-and-goal, free safety Mike Adams and linebacker Kaluka Maiava tackled Bengals running back Cedric Benson for no gain at the 1, completing a goal-line stand for the Browns. The Bengals, however, bounced back. Benson ran for a 16-yard touchdown, and the Bengals tied the score 7-7 with 21 seconds left in the first quarter.

End 2Q: Browns 17, Bengals 7 -- The Browns marched 66 yards in 15 plays to set up Phil Dawson’s first field-goal attempt. He responded by making a 32-yard field goal to give the Browns a 10-7 lead with 9:20 left in the second quarter. The Browns’ defense forced a three-and-out during the next series. Strong safety Usama Young tackled running back Bernard Scott for a 7-yard loss, and backup linebacker Titus Brown sacked rookie quarterback Andy Dalton for a 2-yard loss on third down. The Browns failed to immediately take advantage of the momentum created by their defense. Running back Peyton Hillis fumbled a handoff from McCoy on first down. Alex Smith, who pulled double duty as a fullback and a tight end, recovered the fumble. Rookie wide receiver Greg Little then had his second of three dropped passes in the first half as the Browns went three-and-out. Later in the second quarter, Browns rookie defensive end Jabaal Sheard sacked Dalton on second-and-6 from the Browns’ 27. Dalton fumbled during the play, and defensive tackle Scott Paxson recovered at the Browns’ 14. Four plays later, McCoy found Little wide open in the back corner of the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown with seven seconds left before halftime. Little’s first touchdown catch of his NFL career helped the Browns take a 17-7 lead at halftime.

End 3Q: Browns 20, Bengals 17 -- The Bengals marched 70 yards to begin the second half. After the drive stalled, Mike Nugent trimmed the Bengals’ deficit to 17-10 by making a 23-yard field goal with 8:51 left in the third quarter. The Browns fired back and took a 20-10 lead when Dawson made a 54-yard field goal with 3:50 left in the third quarter. The Browns gained 34 yards in nine plays and settled for Dawson’s seventh field goal of 50 yards or more this season after their drive stalled at the Bengals’ 36. The Bengals didn’t hesitate to counter. Dalton completed a 35-yard pass to rookie wide receiver A.J. Green, who positioned himself in front of cornerback Joe Haden and leaped to make the catch. Then Dalton connected with tight end Jermaine Gresham for a 22-yard touchdown pass, beating the coverage of rookie safety Eric Hagg to help the Bengals cut the Browns’ lead to 20-17 with 1:22 left in the third quarter.

End 4Q: Bengals 23, Browns 20 -- The Browns had a chance to capture the lead in crunch time, but Phil Dawson’s 55-yard field goal fell short after Ryan Pontbriand’s low snap hit the ground and skipped back to holder Brad Maynard. The Bengals didn’t spoil their chance to seize control. After Dawson’s miss, rookie quarterback Andy Dalton connected with rookie wide receiver A.J. Green for a 51-yard completion. The Browns held the Bengals out of the end zone in the final minute. But Mike Nugent made a 26-yard field goal to give the Bengals a 23-20 lead with 38 seconds left. The Browns couldn’t do much with their final possession. The game ended with McCoy’s incomplete pass to wide receiver Josh Cribbs from the Browns’ 30-yard line.

Pregame notes

Inactives: Browns -- quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, strong safety T.J. Ward (foot), fullback Owen Marecic (concussion), offensive linemen Steve Vallos and Oniel Cousins, linebacker Quinton Spears (hamstring) and defensive end Jayme Mitchell (ankle). Bengals -- free safety Robert Sands, linebacker Dontay Moch, guard Clint Boling, offensive tackle Anthony Collins, tight end Donald Lee (foot), wide receiver Ryan Whalen and defensive end Carlos Dunlap (hamstring).

Lineup changes: Browns -- With Peyton Hillis (hamstring) and Montario Hardesty (calf) active, the Browns have not announced their starter at running back. A team spokesman said the situation will dictate who starts. Hillis and Chris Ogbonnaya are all expected to play. Hardesty's right calf didn't feel right during warm-ups, a team spokesman said. He'll dress, and he'll play if needed; Usama Young will continue to start at strong safety in place of Ward, who will miss his third game in a row. Bengals -- Frostee Rucker will start at right defensive end in place of Johnson; Adam Jones will start at cornerback in place of Kelly Jennings.

Top storylines -- 1. Hillis will play for the first time since he injured his left hamstring Oct. 16 against the Oakland Raiders. He has missed the past five games and six games this season. Hillis tried to come back a few weeks ago, but he aggravated his hamstring during practice Nov. 4. Hardesty is active for the first time since he tore a calf muscle in his right leg Oct. 30 against the San Francisco 49ers. He has missed the past three games. Although he's active, he might not play today because his right calf didn't feel 100 percent during warm-ups, a team spokesman said. 2. Bengals rookie wide receiver A.J. Green, who has 41 catches for 635 yards and six touchdowns this season, is active after sitting out this past Sunday with a hyperextended knee. Green will reunite with Browns cornerback Joe Haden, the only defender who has shut down Green this season. Haden, however, left Green uncovered during the Bengals’ quick-snap touchdown in the regular-season opener at Cleveland Browns Stadium. 3. The Browns are embarking upon the roughest part of their schedule. Five of their final six regular-season games are against AFC North rivals. After they visit the Bengals today, the Browns still must face the Baltimore Ravens (8-3) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3) twice each. The Browns also will play the Arizona Cardinals (3-7) in one of their four remaining road games. 4. The Browns will seek redemption after being embarrassed by the Bengals in Week 1. Trailing by four points, the Bengals caught the Browns napping in crunch time. Bengals backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski took a snap before the Browns’ defense lined up and connected with Green for a 41-yard touchdown pass with 4:28 left in the fourth quarter. The Bengals added another touchdown later and prevailed 27-17, extending their series lead to 40-36 in the Battle of Ohio. Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron blamed himself for the loss because his players were caught off guard by the Bengals’ quick snap. 5. Despite losing their past two games against divisional opponents, the Bengals are in the thick of the playoff picture. Although they trail the Ravens and the Steelers in the AFC North standings, the Bengals had the second-best record among nondivision leaders in the AFC through Week 11, meaning they are in line for a wild-card berth. Of course, they’ll need to win down the stretch to stay in the race. 6. Browns-Bengals connections: Jauron was a safety for the Bengals (1978-81). ... Bengals safety Chris Crocker was selected by the Browns in the third round (84th overall) of the 2003 draft. He spent three seasons (2003-05) with the Browns. … Gradkowski appeared in two games with the Browns in 2008. ... Bengals running back Cedric Peerman spent two weeks on the Browns’ active roster and four weeks on the Browns’ practice squad in 2009. Northeast Ohio connections: Bengals cornerback Nate Clements played at Ohio State and is from Shaker Heights. ... Bengals offensive lineman Mike McGlynn is from Austintown.

Preview stories via Ohio.com -- 1. Former Browns lineman Scott Bolzan has been robbed of his memory. 2. A breakthrough for Bolzan? 3. The Browns vow not to nap this time against the Bengals. 4. Matchup of the week: The Browns must find a way to run the ball against the Bengals' stout defense. 5. Keys to the game. 6. Storylines. 7. Injury report. 8. Quote of the week. 9. Numbers to watch. 10. Predictions.

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