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Rookies earn game balls in Bengals’ win over Browns

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CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 26: Cody Kessler #6 of the Cleveland Browns reacts after being sacked by Carl Lawson #58 of the Cincinnati Bengals in the first half of a game at Paul Brown Stadium on November 26, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Bengals won 30-16. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 26: Cody Kessler #6 of the Cleveland Browns reacts after being sacked by Carl Lawson #58 of the Cincinnati Bengals in the first half of a game at Paul Brown Stadium on November 26, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Bengals won 30-16. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /
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Time to give out three game balls from Cincinnati’s 30-16 win over the Cleveland Browns.

RB, Joe Mixon

Quietly, the Cleveland Browns have been very good at stopping the run this season. Gregg Williams’ bunch had allowed just 3.1 yards per carry (best in the NFL) going into Sunday. On paper, it seemed like a nightmare matchup for a Bengals’ offense that is on pace for the lowest number of rushing yards in a 16-game season in franchise history.

Luckily, though, those numbers didn’t reflect what happened at Paul Brown Stadium. Joe Mixon ran for a career-high 114 yards on 23 carries, the first 100-yard rusher for Cincinnati this season. The rookie’s 11-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter sealed the win. The second-round pick added 51 receiving yards on three catches, helping Cincinnati win time of possession.

Joe Mixon's big day leads Bengals over Browns
On Sunday, Joe Mixon became the first Bengals’ 100-yard rusher since week 17 of last season.  (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

It was the third time this season (vs. Indianapolis, @ Green Bay) that Mixon tallied 100-plus yards from scrimmage.

The Bengals would love to feed Mixon and see a similar result against Pittsburgh on Monday. Mixon averaged 6.9 yards a pop against the Steelers on Oct. 29, but only saw seven carries.

DE, Carl Lawson

The Browns’ offense gained 405 yards against a Bengals’ defense widely considered a top-tier unit. Nonetheless, Paul Guenther’s boys did not break after bending. Cincinnati racked up four sacks and forced the Browns to settle for a pair of red zone field goals (and a 39-yard FG).

Leading the charge was Carl Lawson. The rookie no doubt benefited from the interior play of Geno Atkins (0.5 sack, 3 QB hits) and outside work of Pro-Bowler Carlos Dunlap (0.5 sack). When it was all said and done, though, Lawson led the squad with 1.5 sacks. It brought the fourth-rounder’s season total to seven, best of all rookies.

In the last Battle of Ohio, Lawson lost teeth. In round two, he logged his best performance since Week 3.

K, Randy Bullock

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This is a case where you have to feel bad for kickers sometimes. Yes, their job is just to kick a football. But, it has to be a mental roller-coaster to miss a kick and have your name thrown in the mud and still be confident enough to make your next attempt, with your job possibly on the line. Some kickers can’t rebound. Ask Mike Nugent.

Randy Bullock missed two extra points over Cincinnati’s three-game road trip. Rumblings of what could have been with rookie Jake Elliott (who has missed seven kicks, including three PATs with the Eagles so far) were everywhere.

Bullock had the support of head coach Marvin Lewis. But no one knows how short that leash really is.

Blessed with a 51-degree afternoon along the Ohio River, the six-year veteran delivered by converting on all three PATs and all three field goals. Bullock’s trio of three-pointers all came in the second quarter, which included a 49-yarder, his longest as a Bengal.

Honorable mention: QB, Andy Dalton

Andy Dalton’s passer rating hit triple digits for the sixth time in the nine games with Bill Lazor. But he missed out on a game ball for a few throws that Cleveland should have intercepted. It left the Browns without a takeaway for the first time all season (believe it or not).

Thanks to the not-so-sure-handed mitts of the Browns’ secondary, Dalton didn’t throw a pick for the fifth straight game, a career-long streak. He’s now thrown 140 passes without an interception. Dalton’s already tied the number of touchdown tosses (18) from last season, too.

Next: Battle 2.0: A Look Back

Dalton earned his 11th career win over the in-state rival. Tying him with Boomer Esiason for second-most in franchise history. Both trail Ken Anderson’s 13 victories, but he lost 12 times against good Cleveland clubs led by Nick Skorich, Forrest Gregg, Sam Rutigliano and Marty Schottenheimer.

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