It was a tale of two halves for Cleveland, as they went into halftime nursing a 17-7 lead. They maintained a ten point lead late in the third before Cincy came storming back. The first drive worked to perfection for the Browns, ending on a 24 yard strike from Colt McCoy to Jordan Norwood. It was somewhat of a breakout game for Norwood who ended up as the leading receiver with 4 catches and 65 yards. Greg Little managed 5 catches for 57 yards and touchdown himself for the first of his career. He also had some costly drops, including one for a first down on the second to last drive and the game tied. The Browns actually had a chance to take the lead in the 4th quarter, but Phil Dawson couldn’t hit a 48 yard field goal. The Bengals followed with a drive that was highlighted by a 51 yard bomb from Andy Dalton to AJ Green in the rookie connection.
One of the biggest stories of the game came from the return of Peyton Hillis. Montario Hardesty was expected to return as well but did not have a single carry. Chris Ogbonnaya took only 3 carries which may mean I can finally stop having to spell his name. McCoy struggled for much of the game against a strong Bengals defense. He completed less than half of his passes for only 151 yards. He had the two scores, but also threw an interception which led to a Bengals field goal. Defensively the Browns continued to struggle mightily against the run. Cedric Benson acted as the workhorse and finished with 106 yards and a score. Dalton wasn’t a problem for much of the game, but a couple of big plays led to a very solid day of work. He had 270 yards and touchdown pass that helped get the Bengals back into the game. After missing last week, AJ Green came back in a big way, compiling 110 yards on only 3 catches. That is the true definition of a big play receiver.
The Browns fell to 1-4 on the road and 4-7 on the season. They have a tough challenge next week with a home game against Baltimore. The Ravens are coming off a big win over San Francisco and sit atop the AFC North with an 8-3 record. They surprisingly have struggled the most running the ball ranking 26th in the league. Joe Flacco is also leading the league in fumbles, and is certainly prone to turning the ball over. Future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis has missed the last two games and seems a decent bet to miss another. This should open up the middle of the field a bit and with the Browns running game finally getting healthy this could be a big key for Cleveland. Hillis ran all over the Ravens last year and that was with Lewis in the lineup. Cleveland usually plays Baltimore very close, so I expect another close contest this Sunday. Turnovers could ultimately be the key to who wins this game.