ANALYSIS: 3 takeaways from Bengals fifth straight loss to Browns

Credit: Ron Schwane

Credit: Ron Schwane

Cleveland was a nightmare for the Cincinnati Bengals on Halloween.

The Browns stalled a Bengals offense that had put up 75 points over the past two games, and Cincinnati’s defense had no answer for Nick Chubb and Jacoby Brissett as Cleveland rolled to a 32-13 win in the “Battle of Ohio” on Monday at FirstEnergy Stadium.

The Bengals (4-4) have lost five straight in the series. Cleveland (3-5) was coming off a four-game losing streak but picked up its second AFC North win while Cincinnati is 0-3 in the division.

Here are three takeaways from the loss:

1. Secondary backups struggle

Injuries in the Bengals secondary took a toll Monday. Cam Taylor-Britt struggled in his first NFL start after he was expected to rotate with Eli Apple before a hamstring injury kept Apple inactive. Then, shutdown corner Chidobe Awuzie went down with a right knee injury in the second quarter and was declared out, so Tre Flowers entered in his absence.

In the third quarter, Flowers suffered a hamstring injury, forcing safety Dax Hill into action and giving the Bengals two rookies at cornerback.

Taylor-Britt’s day got off to a rough start when he tried to undercut Donovan Peoples-Jones and got beat for a 37-yard reception. Peoples-Jones finished with 81 yards on four catches, and none of the options on the left side could stop Amari Cooper, who had 131 yards and one touchdown on five catches.

The Browns were finding success in the running game, and that opened up the passing game, which Brissett led with consistency to throw for 278 yards while Chubb ran for 101 yards and two touchdowns.

2. Offense out of sorts

The Bengals saw what games without Ja’Marr Chase could look like, but they looked out of sorts in all regards Monday night, as they had just 95 of offense in the first half and finished with 229 total net yards.

Cincinnati’s offensive line had been playing much better in recent weeks, especially in pass protection after allowing 13 sacks in the first two games. However, the Bengals had no solutions for Myles Garrett and company and that was the source of a lot of problems.

Burrow was sacked five times and was playing under pressure all game. Garrett finished with 1.5 sacks, four quarterback hurries and a pass defensed, and Sione Takitaki had a strip sack for a fumble that defensive tackle Tommy Togiagi recovered.

The offense was moving the ball well on the first drive, but just like in Burrow’s last two games against the Browns, the first possession ended in a turnover. Burrow’s pass intended for Tee Higgins was tipped by Garrett and picked off by cornerback A.J. Green at the Cleveland 16-yard line. Mike Thomas, starting in Chase’s place, had a key drop in the first half as well.

Trailing 8-0 in the second quarter, Burrow was sacked by Takitaki at midfield and while the Bengals ended up getting the ball back on an Akeem Davis-Gaither fumble recovery, Cincinnati still went into the break scoreless. The Bengals trailed 25-0 before Tyler Boyd caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Burrow in the fourth quarter. They got another score late on a Higgins 41-yard touchdown catch.

Credit: David Richard

Credit: David Richard

3. “Money Mac” struggles

It was clear Monday wasn’t the Bengals’ night when even Evan McPherson struggled. After Zac Taylor initially wanted to go for it on fourth-and-8 from the Cleveland 28-yard line with 44 seconds left in the second quarter, Cincinnati elected the safe option to take the three points with a field goal attempt. However, McPherson’s normally routine 47-yard field goal went wide right, and the Browns went down and extended the gap with Cade York’s 55-yard field goal to end the half with an 11-0 lead.

That might have been the turning point in the game. Cleveland then received the kickoff to start the second half and got touchdowns on its first three drives of the half to put the game away.

McPherson also missed a PAT after Boyd’s touchdown.

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