Bengals Report Card: Grading the performance vs. the Browns

A trip to Cleveland was the remedy the Cincinnati Bengals needed to put behind them the disappointment of an 0-3 start and take the first step toward turning around their season.

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton had one of the best days of his career, and the defense delivered another solid performance to whip the winless Browns 31-7 at FirstEnergy Stadium.

Here is this week’s Bengals report card:


The Good: The Bengals ran it 30 times.

The Bad: Those 30 runs only produced 86 yards for a 2.9 average, and when the Andy Dalton scrambles are factored out, it was 26 carries for 57 yards (2.2). It's never a good sign when your feature back, in this case Joe Mixon, averages 1.7 yards on 17 carries.

“We ran the ball when we needed too, and it was efficient enough to get the win,” tackle Andre Smith said. “It’s a great feeling to see the offense put points on the board and the way the defense is flying around.”

Key Play: After a first-down incompletion on the first drive of the second half, Jeremy Hill ripped off a 13-yard run to move the chains and sustain the momentum from the 21-point second quarter, leading to the team's fourth of five consecutive scoring drives.

Grade: D

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The Good: Andy Dalton was nearly perfect, completing 25 of 30 passes – including 16 in a row at point one – for 286 yards and four touchdowns with a 146.0 passer rating that was the second highest of his career. Tight end Tyler Kroft had career highs in catches (six), yards (68) and touchdowns (two).

The Bad: The offensive line gave up three more sacks – one of which resulted in a fumble that gave the Browns the ball at the Cincinnati 30 – to bring the season total to 14, which has the team on pace to allow 56 a year after giving up 51, which would be the third most in franchise history.

“I think we will keep progressing the game plan,” Kroft said. “I think we are trying to get the ball out fast and trying to get the ball to our playmakers.”

Key Play: The 7-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green came on third and 6 for the first score of the game and set in motion a dominating performance that saw the Bengals reach the end zone four times in a five-drive span.

Grade: A

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The Good: The Bengals held the Browns 45 yards on 17 carries for a 2.6 average.

The Bad: Duke Johnson's 1-yard touchdown plunge with 1:54 to go kept the Bengals from recording the shutout.

“I think we had a slip up there at the end,” defensive end Michael Johnson said. “We wanted to focus on finishing. We didn’t do good enough finishing last week. We did a little better this week, but we can be even better by not giving up any scores.”

Key play: On second and 5 on the second Browns possession of the game, Bengals linebacker Nick Vigil stoned Isaiah Crowell for a 5-yard loss to set the tone.

Grade: A

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The Good: The Bengals held Cleveland quarterback DeShone Kizer below 50 percent accuracy for just 118 yards.

The Bad: The Bengals players talked about how much they wanted the shutout, so it was a disappointing performance to allow Browns backup Kevin Hogan to complete 5 of 8 passes for 65 yards to drive the team for a touchdown on the final possession.

“I think we took steps,” cornerback Adam Jones said. “Personally, I think we have played good defense but we had a hiccup here or there. For the most part, we played pretty well. We tackled well today. If you take a look back at the Green Bay game, we really didn’t give up any deep balls. The one at the end, we jumped off sides. The other one we had a missed tackle. Besides that we haven’t given up many balls over our head.”

Key play: Clayton Fejedelem's first career interception came with the Browns driving in the red zone and threatening to tie the game in the second quarter.

Grade: A-

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The Good: The Bengals held the explosive Jabril Peppers to 4 yards on three punt returns as Kevin Huber averaged 47.8 yards per punt.

The Bad: An unnecessary block in the back by William Jackson and an illegal blindside block by Giovani Bernard wiped out a terrific 44-yard punt return by Alex Erickson.

Key Play: After starting the game with two ineffective drives, Adam Jones returned a punt 40 yards – his longest since 2014 – to set the offense up at the Cleveland 35 for the first of five consecutive scoring drives.

Grade: B+

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The Good: In just two games, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor has Dalton back to his 2015 production level by running a quick passing game that was nearly perfect against the Browns.

The Bad: Penalties continue to be a problem with eight more to bring the season total to 31, putting the Bengals on pace for 124 a year after being one of the least flagged teams in the league.

“I was proud of how the guys fought today,” head coach Marvin Lewis said. “They did a nice job and continued to play. There was great preparation to come out and play a good football game. We came out to a fast start, overcame the fumble early in the pocket and we were able to stop them there.”

Key Play: In the middle of completing 19 of 20 passes in which the only incompletion was on a blown-up screen play, Lazor went back to the call, the players executed it and Giovani Bernard sprinted 61 yards for a touchdown that made it 21-0 with 47 seconds left before halftime.

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Grade: A-


Bills at Bengals, 1 p.m., WHIO-TV CH. 7, Ch. 12, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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