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Game day blog: Browns vs. Bengals (Week 1)

By Nate Ulrich Published: September 11, 2011

Final score: Bengals 27, Browns 17

Game coverage via 1. A bizarre defensive breakdown leads to another season-opening loss for the Browns. 2. Marla Ridenour column: Browns coach Pat Shurmur should have kept his thoughts about the officiating to himself. 3. Browns fans show patriotism on Sept. 11. 4. Josh Cribbs makes an impact on special teams, but falls short of returning punt for a touchdown. 5. Breakdown spoils cornerback Joe Haden's stellar performance. 6. Instant replay: The Browns must address their overall sloppiness.

End 1Q: Bengals 10, Browns 0

Terrible start.  After a three and out to open the game, Browns punter Rich McGee shanked a punt to give the Bengals the ball at the Browns. After two defensive penalties, Joe Haden bailed the Browns out with two pass breakups in the end zone leading to a 24-yard field goal by Mike Nugent.

After the Browns struggled again offensively, especially with penalties (three offsides calls), the Bengals again set up on the Browns 41. This time, rookie quarterback Andy Dalton found tight end Jermaine Gresham for a two-yard touchdown pass to make the score 10-0 at the 2:22 mark of the first quarter.

Instant impressions

  • Can starts get much worse? The Browns went three and out on two of their first three possessions. The other possession ended with McCoy throwing into triple coverage to Robiskie on third and 19. Leon Hall batted it away. On the other side of the field, an official was knocked down on the Browns bench for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The Browns punted from their own 8.

  • The Browns have seven penalties for 48 yards. Shawn Lauvao already has two off sides penalties. Joe Thomas has one.

  • The Bengals have yet to commit a penalty.

End 2Q: Browns 14, Bengals 13

Mike Nugent with a 47-yard field goal to make the score 13-0 at the 11:30 mark of the second quarter.

Josh Cribbs' kickoff return to the 43-yard line seemed to give the Browns a spark, as did the addition of Montario Hardesty. After an 11-yard reception to Massaquoi on first down, Hardesty ran twice: the first time for seven yards, second for five.

On the next play, the Bengals bit on play action to Hardesty and allowed McCoy to roll right and throw back over the middle to Ben Watson for a 34-yard touchdown pass.

After forcing the Bengals to a three and out, including a combined sack by Marvin Benard and Brian Schaefering; and another pass break up on third down by Joe Haden); McCoy rolled right and launched a ball to Massaquoi as he was getting hit by Thomas Howard. Massaquoi had gotten behind safety reggie Nelson the rest of the defense. Massaquoi had enough time to turn around and wait for the ball to get to him for a 56-yard gain.

Three plays later, McCoy threaded a pass to Evan Moore for a two-yard touchdown pass to give the Browns a 14-13 lead.

Instant impressions

  • Maybe the Browns just needed a quarter to warm up? Or maybe they just needed a spark? They got a few sparks.

  • Josh Cribbs wasn’t going to let another touchback happen after Nugent’s field goal. He caught the ball toeing the end line and returned it regardless, taking it out to the Browns 43. All three kickoffs in the first quarter went for touchbacks.

  •  Montario Hardesty really gave the offense a spark too. After two hard runs, defense bit on play action to allow the touchdown pass to Watson.

  • McCoy has been at his best today on the move, mostly to his right. He’s thrown a couple strikes on rollouts: Watson TD and Massaquoi 56-yarder both that way.

  • McCoy has already tied his career high for touchdown passes in a game with two. He had tow last year against Cincinnati.

  • Joe Haden is looking very good. Three pass breakups already two in the end zone and one on a crucial third down.

  • First offensive possession after the Evan Moore TD could have been a dagger, but was a dud instead. Tried to Run Hillis and got two incompletions for a three and out. Former Brown Chris Crocker broke up the third down pass.

  • Phil Taylor broke through the line and hit Andy Dalton, forcing an incompletion on third down right before halftime. Trainers appeared to be looking at Dalton's right arm or hand following the play.

End 3Q: Browns 17, Bengals 13

Kicker Phil Dawson stretched the Browns lead a bit further with a 20-yard FG at the 8:36 mark. It was a heavy dose of tight ends Evan Moore and Ben Watson to get there.

Instant impressions

  • Browns have started to dominate both sides and have kind of taken the air out of the game a little bit, although the score is still close and its anyone’s game. It doesn’t feel that way at the moment. But it is the NFL, things can change quickly.

  • Bengals not doing much on offense after starting quarterback Andy Dalton left at halftime with a right wrist injury.

  • Dalton did not come out of the tunnel with his teammates at half time After taking a hit from Browns DT Phil Taylor right before halftime. Bruce Gradkowski started the second half in his place. Dalton returned to the field in uniform a few minutes later, but was listed as doubtful with a right wrist injury.

  • Gradkowski was drafted by Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay. Gruden is the brother of Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.

  • Passes to Hillis in the flat have been for good yardage. Hillis seems to be running a lot better than earlier on too. On FG drive tight ends Evan Moore and Ben Watson had back-to-back receptions to get them down field.

  • Marvin Lewis got a bit challenge happy, challenging two plays in about a five minute span. He challenged whether a pass was tipped before an the Bengals were called for pass interference and lost. When the Browns punted and Cribbs pinned the Bengals on the one-yard line, Lewis challenged it and won. Cribbs arm was on the goal line when he touched the ball. The Bengals are now out of challenges for the remainder of the game.

  • Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson has been a difference maker on defense, picking up two sacks, the last one coming with 30 seconds remaining before half.

  • The Browns did not have a penalty in the third quarter.

End 4Q: Bengals 27, Browns 17

It got ugly fast for the Browns.

The Browns didn’t break the defensive huddle fast enough and paid for it on third and 12. Rookie A.J. Green was uncovered and streaked up the sideline for a 41-yard touchdown pass from Gradkowski to make the score 20-17 with four minutes and 28 seconds remaining on the clock.

It was Green’s first catch of the day and of his career and ruined a tremendous day for Haden, who had five big pass breaks throughout the game.

Cedric Benson put the game away with a 39-yard TD run with one minute and 49 seconds remaining to make the score 27-17.

Instant impressions

  • Only in Cleveland.

  • Josh Cribbs looked like he was returning a punt all the way before Greg Little absolutely leveled Bengals punter Kevin Huber. Little drove through Huber and into Cribbs who stumbled back and seemed rattled by the collision.

  • That was followed by a fourth and eight pass from Colt McCoy to….center Alex Mack. The illegal touching penalty was waived off and the Bengals took over with about two minutes remaining. The Browns then allowed Benson to march 39-yards to put the game out of reach.

  • Browns punter Richmond McGee certainly isn’t helping his job security. On his eight punts today, he averaged 36 yards. Bengals punter Kevin Huber averaged 47.8 on eight punts.

  • The Browns need to find some third down efficiency: 4-of-15. Ouch.

  • Last six possessions for the Browns: four punts, two turnovers on downs and an interception.

Pregame notes

Preview stories via 1. Browns President Mike Holmgren shares a vision with coach Pat Shurmur. 2. Browns running back Peyton Hillis is adjusting to his celebrity. 3. Matchup of the week: Browns cornerback Joe Haden vs. Bengals rookie wide receiver A.J. Green. 4. Top storylines. 5. Keys to the game for the Browns. 6. Injury report for Browns vs. Bengals. 7. Numbers to watch. 8. Predictions. 9. Quote of the week. 10. Browns roster.

Top storylines -- 1. Pat Shurmur will be introduced to an AFC North rivalry in his regular-season debut as an NFL coach. Browns coaches are 4-8 when facing the Bengals for the first time. 2. The Browns have converted to Shurmur's West Coast offense, and the Bengals have adopted new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden’s version of the scheme. Whose scheme will prevail? 3. Two starting quarterbacks from Texas — the Browns' Colt McCoy and the Bengals' Andy Dalton — will duel today. McCoy led the University of Texas to victory over Dalton and Texas Christian University in their lone meeting in college. 4. The Browns will unveil defensive coordinator Dick Jauron's 4-3 scheme in its true form. Jauron didn’t show his entire hand in the preseason. 5. Seven rookies are expected to start between the two teams: defensive tackle Phil Taylor, defensive end Jabaal Sheard, fullback Owen Marecic and left guard Jason Pinkston for the Browns; Dalton, Green and right guard Clint Boling for the Bengals.

Inactive players

Under this year's new rules the number of active players on the roster remains at 53, but the the game day rosters are now at 46 players instead of 45, giving each team seven inactive players.

Browns: Thaddeus Lewis, QB; Carlton Mitchell (finger), WR.; Eric Hagg(knee), SS; Titus Brown(Ankle), LB: Steve Vallos, OL: Tony Pashos (foot), OL; Jordan Cameron TE.

Bengals: Kelly Jennings, CB (hamstring); Taylor Mays (knee), S; Cedric Peerman, HB; Robert Sands, S; Dontay Moch (foot), LB; Otis Hudson (Knee), G, Ryan Whalen, WR.

Lineup changes

Browns: Oniel Cousins will replace Pashos at right tackle. Jason Pinkston will start at left guard.

Bengals: none announced.

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