CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 25: Antonio Callaway #11 of the Cleveland Browns attempts to get past Shawn Williams #36 of the Cincinnati Bengals, Brandon Wilson #40, and Jessie Bates #30 during the second quarter at Paul Brown Stadium on November 25, 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Bengals Report Card: Grading Sunday’s 35-20 loss to the Browns

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd said Sunday’s loss to the Cleveland Browns stings a little bit more than others because of the past success the Bengals have had over their in-state rival.

The Bengals had won seven straight in the series, but the Browns came into Paul Brown Stadium and made themselves comfortable, handing Cincinnati a 35-20 loss in front of a large contingent of Cleveland fans.

»ARCHDEACON: Baker Mayfield dominates in his first Battle of Ohio

Boyd noted how improved the Browns are from the past two years but said he still felt the Bengals were the better team and just didn’t make plays. In the end, a slow start cost them after falling behind 28-0 in the first half.

Cincinnati now prepares to host the Denver Broncos on Sunday, trying to end a three-game skid and salvage any hope of a playoff berth, but first, here is our Week 12 report card:

RUN OFFENSE

The Good: Joe Mixon overcame a slow start to rush for 89 yards on 14 carries (6.4 yards per carry), and the Bengals finished with 129 yards on the ground despite being forced to throw the ball in the fourth quarter.

The Bad: Mixon had two carries for minus-4 yards in the first quarter. Giovani Bernard still hasn’t been integrated into the running game much, as he had just one carry for 10 yards.

»RELATED: 5 takeaways from Browns win over Bengals

Key Play: Trailing 14-0 in the first quarter, Mixon’s second negative carry of the day put the Bengals behind the sticks and led to a quick out after Alex Erickson had a big return to give the offense good field position. The Browns drove down and scored again and had clear control at that point.

Grade: B

PASS OFFENSE

The Good: Jeff Driskel gave the Bengals a chance in the second half, stepping in for injured starter Andy Dalton and driving the offense into Cleveland territory on four of five drives. He threw for 155 yards and one touchdown.

The Bad: Dalton couldn’t get the offense going in the first half, as the Bengals fell behind 28-0 after he threw a pick in the second quarter. He completed 10 of 17 passes for just 100 yards with one interception. Penalties were a huge problem, especially on the final two drives, which thwarted the comeback.

»RELATED: Photos from the game

Key Play: On first-and-20 on the opening drive of the second half, Dalton went back in shotgun only to have the snap sent over his head. Dalton injured his thumb trying to recover it and was lost for the remainder of the game. Additionally, the Browns got the ball at the 7-yard line and was able to extend their lead to 35-7.

Grade: D+

RUN DEFENSE

The Good: The Bengals held Cleveland to 84 yards rushing on 35 carries for a 2.4 yard per carry average, and they had six tackles for loss totaling 26 yards. Nick Chubb’s long run of 27 yards came in the fourth quarter on a drive the defense forced a punt, and he still only finished with 84 yards on 28 carries.

The Bad: Cleveland’s lack of success in the running game the first half didn’t slow the offense. The short runs were mixed in just well enough to keep the Bengals defense off kilter.

Key Play: Chubb converted a fourth-and-1 in the second quarter to extend a drive that allowed the Browns to make it 28-0. The Bengals challenged the first down ruling but lost.

Grade: B+

PASS DEFENSE

The Good: The defense adjusted in the second half and forced the Browns to punt on their last four possessions.

The Bad: Baker Mayfield completed 19 of 26 passes for 258 yards and four touchdowns and finished with a 143.9 quarterback rating. He was elusive out of the pocket and still able to get his passes off with ease.

Key Play: Mayfield opened the game with a 23-yard pass to Chubb and completed his next five passes to set the tone, as the Browns scored their first four possessions.

Grade: D-

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Good: Alex Erickson averaged 19.0 yards per punt return with a long of 33 yards and averaged 24.5 yards per kick return with a long of 33 yards. Kevin Huber averaged 49.5 yards per punt with one inside the 20-yard line, which set the Browns at their own 4 yard line.

The Bad: Penalties continue to impact the Bengals’ returns, and they had a 54-yard field goal blocked in the first quarter.

Key Play: After the Browns first scoring drive, Erickson had a 36-yard kick return to the Bengals’ 42-yard line impacted by an unnecessary roughness penalty that put them back on the 11. Randy Bullock then ended up having a 54-yard field goal blocked on that possession.

Grade: C-

COACHING

The Good: The Bengals made adjustments in the second half and were able to cut the deficit in half despite needing to turn to their backup quarterback, third-string left tackle and several backups on defense.

The Bad: Cincinnati came in prepared to stop the run and ended up chasing Mayfield and his receivers all over the field. The offense still can’t find a way to overcome slow starts without A.J. Green.

Key Play: The decision to try the 54-yard field goal could be called into question, as it ended up giving Cleveland good field position for a 14-0 lead. Had it worked out, it could have changed the game, but it was clear from the first drive the Bengals weren’t ready. The Browns only got to third down once on the drive and scored on 10 plays.

Grade: C-

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