Game in review
Browns 34, Bengals 24
Offense: The Browns failed to gain a first down on seven consecutive drives spanning the majority of the second and third quarters. But quarterback Brandon Weeden and Co. snapped out of their funk with touchdown drives of 66 and 63 yards on consecutive possessions. Running back Montario Hardesty, who finished with 15 carries for 56 yards, capped the 66-yard drive with a 1-yard rushing touchdown. Weeden put the finishing touches on the 63-yard march by connecting with tight end Benjamin Watson, who ran wide open in the end zone. Weeden completed 17-of-29 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns with an interception for a passer rating of 92.7. Thumbs up.
Defense: The Browns were outgained 438 yards to 328, but the defense created four turnovers (three interceptions and a fumble) and made key plays in crunch time. Cornerback Sheldon Brown returned an interception 19 yards for a touchdown with 7:50 left in the fourth quarter. The defensive line later sealed the Browns win when right end Emmanuel Stephens strip-sacked quarterback Andy Dalton, and tackle Billy Winn scooped up the ball and returned the fumble 35 yards to the Bengals’ 42-yard line with 2:27 left. Thumbs up.
Special teams: Josh Cribbs’ 60-yard punt return set up a field goal in the third quarter and his 44-yard kickoff return sparked the drive that led to the Browns’ first touchdown of the fourth quarter. Phil Dawson made field goals of 41 of 38 yards and is now a perfect 12-of-12 this season. The performances of Cribbs and Dawson overshadowed some lackluster punting by Reggie Hodges and the Bengals’ 32-yard punt return that set up a touchdown with 1:54 left in the second quarter. Thumbs up.
Coaching: There were plenty of rough patches, but the Browns ultimately did more bad than good in all three phases. As a result, coach Pat Shurmur secured his first victory in the AFC North. He is now 1-8 against divisional opponents. Thumbs up.