For the first time since 2010, the Cleveland Browns will not finish last in the AFC North.
That spot is now reserved for the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Browns (7-7-1) ensured at least a third-place finish with a 26-18 win over the Bengals on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium, completing Cleveland’s first “Battle of Ohio” sweep since 2002.
Cincinnati’s play for three quarters was fitting of a last-place team as the Browns built as much as a 23-point lead. The Bengals (6-9) had just 36 yards and four first downs on 20 plays in the first half, as the Browns took a 16-0 advantage into halftime.
They were 0-for-5 on third downs, and quarterback Jeff Driskel completed 2 of 6 passes for 3 yards in the first half.
Cleveland got on the board with 10:23 left in the second quarter when Baker Mayfield connected with David Njoku on a 3-yard touchdown pass to cap off a 13-play, 74-yard drive that ate up more than seven minutes.
Cincinnati then lost 11 yards on their next drive, and Cleveland caught them off guard the first play from scrimmage after that with a 63-yard gadget pass from Jarvis Landry to Brandon Perriman to set up the next touchdown for a 13-0 lead with a missed extra point attempt.
The Browns added a 37-yard field goal by Greg Joseph with 14 seconds left in the first half.
It wasn’t until Cleveland had a 23-0 lead that the Bengals finally got on the board with a 51-yard field goal from Randy Bullock, and the Browns took their foot off the gas.
Driskel hit C.J. Uzomah on a 14-yard pass to cut the deficit to 26-10 with 4:56 left after Joseph made a 31-yard field goal, and after Clayton Fejedelem blocked a punt at the Cleveland 23-yard line, the Bengals suddenly were back in the game. John Ross caught his seventh touchdown pass of the season, and Driskel found Cody Core in the end zone for the two-point conversion to make it an eight-point game with 2:56 remaining.
Mayfield responded under pressure to seal the win when he found Njoku on a 66-yard pass just before the two-minute warning. The Browns were able to run down the clock and send Cincinnati home with its eighth loss in the last 10 games.
Cincinnati finished with 209 yards of offense, as Driskel accounted for 133 yards on 13 of 19 passing, and Joe Mixon finished with 68 yards on 17 carries to surpass 1,000 yards rushing for the season. He needed five yards to get the milestone.
Mayfield threw for 284 yards and three touchdowns, Nick Chubb had 112 yards on 19 rushes and the Browns totaled 493 yards of offense. Cincinnati had limited its last two opponents to less than 300 yards.