Final recap -- Browns 23, Bengals 20 (click here for the box score)
The Browns (1-3) captured their first win of the season Sunday because they finally made clutch plays with the game on the line. Running back Peyton Hillis, the offensive line and fullback Lawrence Vickers took control in the final 4 minutes, 41 seconds of the game at Cleveland Browns Stadium. With his blockers paving the way, Hillis gained two first downs, including one via a backbreaking 24-yard run, and the Cincinnati Bengals (2-2) never got the ball back. Hillis finished with 27 carries for 102 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown. He became the first Browns player to rush for a touchdown in four consecutive games since Greg Pruitt in 1975. Hillis also ran for more than 100 yards for the second time in as many weeks and just the third time in his career. He wore the Bengals down, too, inflicting pain upon safety Roy Williams (knee) and cornerback Johnathan Joseph (forearm), both of whom left the game with injuries. Hillis' performance in crunch time overshadowed amazing production from Bengals wide receiver Terrell Owens, who had 10 catches for 222 yards , including a 78-yard touchdown reception on which he burned Browns cornerback Sheldon Brown. Owens helped the Bengals outgain the Browns 413-295, but Cincinnati still fell in the Battle of Ohio. Why? The Bengals lost the turnover battle. They had two lost fumbles to the Browns' one interception. During coach Marvin Lewis' tenure, Cincinnati is now 7-37 when it loses the turnover battle. The Browns' defense had several bright spots despite T.O.'s rampage. Linebacker Matt Roth had two sacks, including one that forced the Bengals to punt on their last possession. Linebacker Scott Fujita also had a sack, a forced fumble and a crucial blocked field goal late in the second quarter. Even though he missed practice all week with a knee injury, defensive end Kenyon Coleman had a sack and two fumble recoveries. Rookie safety T.J. Ward was called for a costly personal foul on third down when the side of his helmet and part of his shoulder pad collided with the helmet of wide receiver Jordan Shipley. Ward delivered the devastating hit as a pass to Shipley fell incomplete in the end zone. Shipley suffered a concussion, Ward's penalty gave the Bengals a first down and the Cincinnati scored a touchdown on the next play, trimming its deficit to 23-20 with 10:44 remaining in the fourth quarter. Ward led the Browns in tackles (eight) for the third time in four games, but he's lucky his personal foul didn't haunt his team in the end. It certainly could have resulted in yet another blown fourth-quarter lead for the Browns, but Hillis and his blockers made sure it didn't. Quarterback Seneca Wallace started in place of the injured Jake Delhomme (right high-ankle sprain) for the third consecutive week. He completed 18-of-30 passes for 184 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown pass to tight end Evan Moore, with one interception. Meanwhile, Delhomme was inactive and listed as the team's third quarterback. After the game, Browns coach Eric Mangini said he anticipates Delhomme will be ready to return as the team's starting quarterback in Week 5 against the Atlanta Falcons.
End 1Q: Browns 3, Bengals 0 -- 1. The Browns took a 3-0 lead with 2:28 left in the first quarter when kicker Phil Dawson nailed a 30-yard field goal to complete a nine-play, 39-yard drive. The Browns started the drive at their own 48-yard line after defensive lineman Kenyon Coleman recovered a fumbled handoff attempt by quarterback Carson Palmer. Instant impressions -- 1. Browns linebacker David Bowens made a nice play when he batted down a pass by Palmer near the line of scrimmage to end Cincinnati's opening drive. 2. On Cleveland's first possession, Bengals cornerback Adam Jones should have intercepted a pass that quarterback Seneca Wallace intended for wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi. If the play seemed to be familiar, it's because Browns rookie safety T.J. Ward dropped an interception last week early in the first quarter. 3. Before the Browns' field goal, tight end Benjamin Watson tried to haul in a pass from Wallace in the end zone and couldn't secure the ball as he hit the ground. Browns coach Eric Mangini challenged the call, but it stood. It appeared to be the right call on replay. 4. Coleman had a great first quarter. In addition to his fumble recovery, he sacked Palmer for a 2-yard loss.
End 2Q: Browns 13, Bengals 10 -- 1. Wallace hit tight end Evan Moore in stride for a 24-yard touchdown with 11:04 left in the second quarter. Dawson's PAT was good, giving the Browns a 10-0 lead. Moore scored his first career touchdown by beating safety Chris Crocker. 2. Kicker Mike Nugent capped an eight-play, 61-yard drive with a 24-yard field goal to trim the Bengals' deficit to 10-3 with 7:16 left in the first half. 3. Bengals wide receiver Terrell Owens burned cornerback Sheldon Brown on a 78-yard touchdown pass. Nugent's PAT was good, and Cincinnati tied the score 10-10 with 3:30 left in the second quarter. 4. Dawson hit a 31-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter to give the Browns a 13-10 halftime lead. Cleveland gained possession with 1:31 left in the first half and drove 53 yards in eight plays to set up its go-ahead field goal. Instant impressions -- 1. Nice throw by Wallace to Moore. 2. After Moore's touchdown, Watson was penalized for jumping into the stands with Moore. Even when things are going well, the Browns just can't resist making stupid penalties. The penalty was enforced on the ensuing kickoff. 3. Browns cornerback Eric Wright was beaten by wide receiver Chad Ochocinco on a 42-yard reception. Later during the same drive, Wright earned redemption by breaking up a potential touchdown pass intended for Owens. Wright's play forced the Bengals to settle for a field goal. 4. Wow. Owens made cornerback Sheldon Brown look bad. Brown was beaten by Owens, then he fell down as Owens made the catch and ran toward the end zone untouched. 5. Wallace was picked off by cornerback Leon Hall, but the interception appeared to be wide receiver Chansi Stuckey's fault. The ball went through his hands before it was picked off by Hall. 6. Linebacker Scott Fujita made perhaps the play of the first half for the Browns when he blocked a 44-yard field-goal attempt by Nugent with 1:31 left in the second quarter. After Fujita's clutch play, the Browns orchestrated a scoring drive to take the lead at the end of the first half.
End 3Q: Browns 23, Bengals 13 -- 1. The Browns began the second half with an 11-play, 64-yard scoring drive that was capped by running back Peyton Hillis' 1-yard touchdown run. He's the first Browns player to rush for a touchdown in four consecutive games since 1975. 2. Dawson hit a 22-yard field goal to give the Browns a 23-10 lead with 6:32 left in the third quarter. Dawson's kick was set up by Fujita's sack and forced fumble. Coleman recovered Palmer's fumble at the at the Bengals' 13-yard line. 3. Nugent hit a 25-yard field goal with 1:14 left in the third quarter, trimming the Bengals' deficit to 23-13. Instant impressions -- 1. Hillis has been physically punishing whoever tries to tackle him. 2. Fujita and Coleman are the defensive MVPs so far for the Browns. 3. Cincinnati is ailing. Bengals safety Roy Williams (right knee) was injured and won't return. Cornerback Johnathan Joseph (right forearm) was hurt, and his return is doubtful. 4. The Browns are winning, but Owens is killing them. He's playing at an extremely high level today. 5. The Browns will have a lead in the fourth quarter for the fourth consecutive game. Let's see if they can hang on this time.
End 4Q: Browns 23, Bengals 20 -- 1. Palmer hit halfback Brian Leonard with a shovel pass for a 3-yard touchdown with 10:44 left in the fourth quarter. The Browns appeared to have the Bengals stopped after a third-and-goal play from Cleveland's 7-yard line. But Browns rookie safety T.J. Ward was called for a personal foul when he hit wide receiver Jordan Shipley's head with his elbow as a pass intended for Shipley fell incomplete in the end zone. Shipley suffered a concussion on the play, and the Bengals were granted a first down because of the penalty. Instant impressions -- 1. Ward has earned high praise this season for his aggressive style, but he made a crucial mistake by nailing Shipley. The Bengals would have probably settled for a field goal on fourth down if Ward didn't get called for that penalty. 2. The Browns needed someone to make step up and make a big play in crunch time, and linebacker Matt Roth delivered. On third-and-13 at the Browns' 41-yard line, Roth sacked Palmer for a loss of 4 yards, forcing the Bengals to punt. 3. The Browns overcame some mistakes in the fourth quarter because they seized control after Roth's sack. They wisely used Hillis to grind out first downs and run the clock. Hillis' late 24-yard run off the right side sealed the Browns' win.
Top storylines: 1. The 74th Battle of Ohio will be held today at Cleveland Browns Stadium. The Bengals lead the series 38-35 and have won nine of the past 11 meetings. 2. Quarterback Seneca Wallace will start in Jake Delhomme's place for the third consecutive week. Delhomme has been sidelined with a right high-ankle sprain. He's inactive today and listed as the team's third quarterback. 3. Browns cornerback Eric Wright was victimized by Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin last week. Wright was beaten on Boldin's three touchdown receptions, so he'll be seeking redemption today. Will he achieve it against the Bengals' high-profile wide receivers Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens. 4. Browns running back Peyton Hillis had a breakout performance against the Ravens, rushing for a career-high 144 yards on 22 carries. Will offense coordinator Brian Daboll continue to put the game in the hands of Hillis and Cleveland's offensive linemen? 5. Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer has struggled so far this season. He's thrown three touchdowns and three interceptions, and his quarterback rating is 71.3. Palmer, though, is 8-2 against the Browns, and he will certainly try to break through the way Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco did last week against Cleveland.
Inactive players: Browns -- QB Jake Delhomme (listed as the team's third quarterback), WR Brian Robiskie, TE Alex Smith, OL John St. Clair, OL Shawn Lauvao, RB James Davis, WR Carlton Mitchell and DB Derrick Roberson. Bengals -- QB Dan LeFevour (listed as the team's third quarterback), CB Brandon Ghee, HB Cedric Peerman, C Reggie Stephens, DE Jonathan Fanene, OT Anthony Collins, WR Jerome Simpson and DE Carlos Dunlap.
Lineup changes: Browns -- Seneca Wallace will start in place of Delhomme at quarterback; offensive lineman Tony Pashos will start in place of John St. Clair at right tackle; wide receiver Josh Cribbs will start in place of Brian Robiskie; defensive lineman Ahtyba Rubin will start in place of Shaun Rogers at nose tackle. Bengals -- None.