Dec 6, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals free safety Reggie Nelson (20) returns an interception as Cleveland Browns running back Duke Johnson (29) chases during the second quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
It was no contest as the Bengals stomped on the Browns in Cleveland. The Bengals played how a division leader should against a struggling opponent. Andy Dalton got off to a great start with a 57-yard strike to A.J. Green, that was capped off by Dalton’s three yard touchdown run. From there it was all Bengals who won by a final score of 37-3. There were many positives for the Bengals, as they swept the Browns for the first time since 2011. Probably the most important aspect of the win is that the Bengals are now one step closer to the AFC North crown.
Jeremy Hill had his best performance of the season, and put up 98 yards on 22 carries and had a touchdown. Hill looked good for the second straight week. His two week totals are 186 yards on 38 carries, a touchdown, and a 4.8 yard per carry average. Hill showed the desire he displayed in 2014 and was even successful at the “Dawg Pound Leap” this time around. The “Thunder and Lightning” combination of Hill and Giovani Bernard tore through the Browns, and amassed 124 rushing yards. If the Bengals rushing attack continues to put pressure on its opponents, Cincinnati will be difficult to defeat.
Another bright spot for Cincinnati was the defensive line, which was relentless against Cleveland. Carlos Dunlap led the way with three solo tackles and a sack. Dunlap would have compiled two sacks, but was flagged for a face mask on the first one. Though Dunlap had the best numbers, Geno Atkins was a force throughout the game. Atkins was a constant concern for the Browns offensive line, who continuously changed looks during the game to try and stop him. The great play of the defensive line took pressure off of the Bengals’ banged-up secondary. Cincinnati will need the defensive line to continue to step up as they host Pittsburgh next week. If Geno and company can put pressure on Ben Roethlisberger then the Bengals should advance to 11-2.
The best aspect of this win is that the Bengals were able to win despite their injuries. Cincinnati was missing a large piece of their offense as Tyler Eifert missed his first game of the year. Andy Dalton overcame the absence of his favorite touchdown target by throwing for 220 yards and two touchdowns, while adding another touchdown with his legs. Dalton’s touchdown passes were snagged by perennial Pro Bowler A.J. Green and the always dangerous Marvin Jones. Aside from the great wide receiver play, the back up tights ends did their part as well. Tyler Kroft, Ryan Hewitt, and C.J. Uzomah all contributed to the win. Though everyone in Cincinnati will be glad to have Eifert back, the Bengals proved that they were capable of winning without him on the field.
The next step for the Bengals is a rematch with their arch rival Pittsburgh. Cincinnati was able to mount a late come back and beat the Steelers at Heinz Field in week 8. The Bengals will be attempting to sweep the Steelers for the first time since 2009, when Cincinnati swept the entire AFC North. The Steelers played well and defeated the Colts on Sunday Night Football. Pittsbuburgh’s victory kept the Bengals lead in the AFC North to three games. Regardless of Sunday night’s outcome, Cincinnati can lock up the AFC North with a win over the Steelers next week. The “Clutch Cats” will need to play there best in order to win their second straight rivalry game.