Bengals Report Card: Grading the win vs. the Browns

With a big game against the Pittsburgh Steelers looming on the horizon in Week 13, there was no looking ahead for the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday as they rolled to their seventh consecutive double-digit win against the struggling Cleveland Browns.

Rookie running back Joe Mixon broke loose for his first 100-yard gain with 114 on 23 carries, and quarterback Andy Dalton threw a pair of touchdown passes as the Bengals scored on their first five possessions on the way to a 30-16 triumph at Paul Brown Stadium.

Here is a look at the good, the bad and the key plays from Sunday’s 89th Battle of Ohio:


The Good: Led by Joe Mixon's career-high 114 yards, the Bengals rushed for a season-high 152. There were six rushes for at least 11 yards as the team posted a season-best average of 5.1.

The Bad: There still were six rushes, not counting kneel downs, that went for zero or negative yards.

Key Play: Mixon's 11-yard touchdown run with 2:57 remaining gave the Bengals a 14-point lead to seal the game.

Grade: A-

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The Good: Behind steadily improving pass protection, quarterback Andy Dalton threw two touchdown passes, including the first of the year to Tyler Boyd, and recorded his third consecutive passer rating of at least 100 while extending his streak of consecutive passes without an interception to 140. A.J. Green's acrobatic 13-yard reception on the sideline at the end of the third quarter was a thing of beauty.

The Bad: Two of Dalton's passes should have been intercepted by Browns defenders but were dropped. Right tackle Andre Smith had two false start penalties on what appeared to be pass plays. And while the offensive line allowed only one sack, it came on third down at the Cleveland 8, forcing the Bengals to settle for a field goal.

Key Play: Dalton's deep ball to Josh Malone on third and 5 late in the fourth quarter was a perfect throw that official is scored as no play due to Cleveland safety Jabrill Peppers dislodging the ball with an illegal hit. The 15-yard penalty gave the Bengals a first down and set up the game-clinching touchdown two plays later.

Grade: B+

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The Good: The Browns gained 6 yards on six carries in the red zone.

The Bad: The Browns gained 163 yards on 25 carries (6.5) outside the red zone. The 169 rushing yards the Bengals allowed were the second most this season after giving up 180 two weeks ago at Tennessee. Cleveland gained 12 of its 21 first downs on runs.

Key play: Cleveland quarterback DeShone Kizer's 3-yard touchdown on fourth and goal kept the Browns in the game by cutting the Cincinnati lead to 23-16 with 6:57 to go.

Grade: D-

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The Good: The Bengals sacked Kizer three times and had another wiped out on a holding penalty that Marvin Lewis accepted.

The Bad: Kizer threw for a career-high 268 yards and posted a career-high 86.5 passer rating while not throwing an interception for just the second time in 12 games. The Bengals surrendered six pass plays of at least 20 yards.

Key play: Sometimes when playing a winless team, a lucky break or two falls your way. That was the case for the Bengals when Kizer threw a perfect deep ball – one that Cincinnati defensive back Josh Shaw never looked back for – and hit Corey Coleman in stride in the end zone and second and 20. Coleman dropped it. Instead of closing with 10 points with 4:37 left in the third quarter, the Browns ended up settling for a field goal.

Grade: C-

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The Good: Randy Bullock was 3 for 3 on extra points and 3 for 3 on field goal attempts, including a season-long 49. The kick coverage unit limited the Browns to a 20.6 average on five returns.

The Bad: Cethan Carter's holding penalty nullified an electric 55-yard punt return touchdown by Adam Jones. Kevin Huber averaged only 35.5 yards on two punts and had just his fourth touchback of the season.

Key Play: On Jones' wiped-out punt return, Bengals cornerback William Jackson delivered a devastating block on Browns punter Britton Colquitt, forcing him out of the game for concussion evaluation. Cleveland kicker Zane Gonzalez had to put on the next series and shanked a 16-yarder that the Bengals converted into points.

Grade: B

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The Good: It would have been easy to play down against a 0-10 opponent they had beaten six consecutive times, but the Bengals came out ready to play and never let up. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, offensive line coach Paul Alexander and running backs coach Kyle Caskey deserve kudos for the way the team ran the ball against the No. 1 team in league in average yards per carry allowed.

The Bad: The tentative defensive approach late in the second quarter resulted in the Bengals giving up points in the final 23 seconds of the half for the fifth time in six games

Key Play: Lazor's decision to throw a deep ball on third and 5 while not yet in field goal range and clinging to a seven-point lead late in the fourth quarter was a gutsy call that ultimately was rewarded by a Browns mistake.

Grade: B+

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