Final recap: Bengals 19, Browns 17 (click here for the box score)
For the second week in a row, the Browns faced an opponent that had previously won only two games this season. For the second week in a row, the Browns lost. The Browns (5-9) were outplayed in every phase of the game Sunday against the host Cincinnati Bengals (3-11). The defense couldn't stop Bengals running back Cedric Benson, who had 31 carries for 150 yards and a touchdown. The offense, led by rookie quarterback Colt McCoy, scored touchdowns on its first and last possessions, but it repeatedly stalled in between. The special teams didn't produce much in the return game and allowed too much in kick and punt coverage. The only real bright spot for Cleveland was this: It didn't commit a turnover. Then again, Cincinnati didn't, either. This loss could spell doom for Eric Mangini's future as Cleveland's coach. Browns President Mike Holmgren has said he will decide Mangini's fate at the end of the season. When he looks back at this game and the team's 13-6 loss to the Buffalo Bills the previous week, it's difficult to imagine him seeing anything positive. The Browns lacked a sense of urgency on offense until it was too late. The defense didn't rise to the challenge of an AFC North rival making a concerted effort to shove the ball down its throat. Missed opportunities -- the Bengals recovered an onside kick after the Browns' final touchdown and Cleveland failed to score after marching to Cincinnati's 31-yard line late in the first half -- will haunt the Browns yet again. "Close but no cigar" has been the Browns' theme for this season. They are now 3-7 in games decided by seven points or fewer.
End 1Q: Browns 7, Bengals 0 -- 1. Browns rookie quarterback Colt McCoy connected with tight end Robert Royal for a 20-yard touchdown pass with 12:08 left in the first quarter. Phil Dawson made the extra-point kick to give the Browns a 7-0 lead. Instant impressions -- 1. The 75th chapter of the "Battle of Ohio" is already a wacky one. On each side of the field, the Browns split both their offensive tackles wide along with a tight end and a receiver. To make the play even stranger, Royal -- who's not exactly known for his hands -- made a diving catch in the end zone, his first touchdown reception since the 2009 season opener. 2. On the ensuing kickoff, the Bengals had a 69-yard kickoff return to Cleveland's 17-yard line negated by a holding penalty. Adding an odd twist to the play, the Browns' coaching staff was penalized for making contact with an official on the sideline. 3. McCoy nearly had two passes picked off in the first quarter. 4. Bengals wide receiver Terrell Owens limped to the sideline, and his return is questionable. He has a left knee injury.
End 2Q: Bengals 10, Browns 7 -- 1. Bengals running back Cedric Benson ran untouched off left tackle for an 18-yard touchdown with 12:52 remaining in the second quarter. Clint Stitser's successful PAT tied the score 7-7. 2. Stitser made a 25-yard field goal to give the Bengals a 10-7 lead with 4:19 left in the second quarter. The kick capped a 13-play, 68-yard drive for Cincinnati. Instant impressions -- 1. The Browns' defense is struggling against the run. The Bengals compiled 90 rushing yards in the first half. 2. The Bengals had to settle for a field goal after Browns defensive back Mike Adams and Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham battled in the back of the end zone for pass that fell incomplete. Gresham was called for offensive pass interference. The Browns declined the penalty, and the Bengals kicked a field goal on fourth down. 3. The Browns squandered an opportunity to score during their final drive of the first half. On second-and-4 from the Bengals' 31, McCoy was sacked for an 8-yard loss. McCoy then completed a 5-yard pass to wide receiver Brian Robiskie. Instead of letting Phil Dawson attempt a 51-yard field goal, the Browns went for it on fourth-and7 at the Bengals' 34, but the play had to be replayed because of offsetting penalties. On the replayed fourth down, the Browns lined up to go for it again, but offensive tackle John St. Clair was called for a false start, forcing Cleveland to punt with 16 seconds left before halftime.
End 3Q: Bengals 16, Browns 7 -- 1. Stitser made a 39-yard field goal to give the Bengals a 13-7 lead with 11:11 left in the third quarter. Stitser made another field goal, this time from 34 yards, to give the Bengals a 16-7 lead with 3:33 left in the third quarter. Instant impressions -- 1. It's hard to watch Josh Cribbs return kicks when his health isn't at full strength. After dislocating toes on his right foot Nov. 14 against the New York Jets, Cribbs hasn't been himself. He fumbled during a kickoff return. Somehow, he managed to recover it. 2. Benson is killing the Browns. With 3:33 left in the third quarter, he has compiled 23 carries for 120 yards (5.2 average) and a touchdown. 3. Hillis had been bottled up all day until he broke loose up the middle and cut right for an 18-yard run late in the third quarter. That run could provide the momentum the Browns need. They ended the third quarter with third-and-1 at the Bengals' 4.
End 4Q: Bengals 19, Browns 17 -- 1. Phil Dawson made a 23-yard field goal to trim the Browns' deficit to 16-10 with 14:06 left in the fourth quarter. 2. Stitser made a 20-yard field goal to extend the Bengals' lead to 19-10 with 9:58 left in the fourth quarter. 3. McCoy threw a 46-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Brian Robiskie. Dawson made the PAT to trim Cleveland's deficit to 19-17 with 2:13 left in the fourth quarter. Instant impressions -- 1. On third-and-1 from the Bengals' 4, Hillis was stuffed for no gain while trying to run up the middle, forcing the Browns to settle for a field goal. The same thing happened last week when the Browns fell 13-6 to the Buffalo Bills. 2. Browns cornerback Eric Wright suffered a left knee injury and left the game. 3. Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer has been solid today. He completed a short pass to wide receiver Andre Caldwell that turned into a 53-yard gain. On third-and-goal from Cleveland's 3, Palmer threw a pass to Chad Ochocinco in the back corner of the end zone. The ball bounced off Ochocinco, who was closely covered by Browns cornerback Sheldon Brown. Therefore, Stitser kicked his fourth field goal of the game, making a 20-yard attempt to extend the Bengals lead to 19-10 with 9:58 left in the fourth quarter. 4. After Robiskie caught the touchdown pass while cornerback Keiwan Ratliff tried to break it up, the Browns tried a surprise onside kick. Cincinnati's Quan Cosby was credited with the recovered fumble, though Cleveland's Titus Brown emerged from a pile with the ball. 5. The Browns had a chance to stop the Bengals and get the ball back, but Benson provided the final dagger. On third-and-3 from the Browns' 37, he ran for 4 yards and a first down that forced the Browns to use their final timeout. The play was reviewed, but the ruling on the field stood. The Bengals ran out the clock to win.
Top storylines -- 1. Browns coach Eric Mangini wants to pad his resume with as many wins as possible in the final three games of this season. A strong finish could influence Browns President Mike Holmgren's decision about Mangini's future. 2. Browns rookie quarterback Colt McCoy will return to action for the first time since he suffered a left high-ankle sprain Nov. 21 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. 3. Browns rookie safety T.J. Ward will face the Bengals for the first time since he delivered devastating hit on Cincinnati wide receiver Jordan Shipley. Ward said he doesn't want to play the role of a villain, but he probably doesn't have a choice in the eyes of Bengals fans.
Inactive players -- Browns: WR Jordan Norwood, Jake Delhomme (listed as the team's third quarterback), WR Carlton Mitchell, DB Coye Francies, DL Brian Sanford, TE Evan Moore, DL Jayme Mitchell and LB Scott Fujita. Bengals: Dan LeFevour (listed as the team's third quarterback), CB Jonathan Wade, HB Cedric Peerman, LB Vincent Rey, C Reggie Stephens, OT Kirk Chambers, TE Chase Coffman and DE Victor Adeyanju.
Lineup changes -- Browns: McCoy will start at quarterback in place of Delhomme; Depending on the defensive package used to begin the game, either Jason Trusnik or David Bowens will start at linebacker in place of Fujita. Bengals: No announced changes.