What We Learned from Browns wins against Bengals on Monday night


  1. Joe Woods could bring about another unexpected turn. The first signs of improvement came in Cleveland’s narrow loss to Baltimore, a game in which the Browns largely contained Lamar Jackson but failed to make the comeback. With another top-flight talent in the middle and a number of key players out through injury, the Browns answered the call with great success. With an attack that can’t get out of a wet paper bag at the moment, the Bengals, who love to pass, had a hard time most of the evening. It started with a deflected pass from Joe Burrow that ended in an interception and continued with Cleveland’s constant harassment of Burrow with the tune of five sacks and a forced fumble. The Browns morphed into an unexpectedly opportunistic defense, forcing two turnovers from Burrow and, more importantly, limiting an offense that averaged nearly 300 passing yards per game in Weeks 4-7. After six weeks of defensive ineptitude, the Browns are starting to look like they’re about to enter the second half of the 2021 season. It may have come just in time for Woods to keep his job — and potentially reverse Cleveland’s season.
  2. Joe Burrow’s winning streak against the Browns continues. Burrow’s resume needs no mention here, but for some reason he can’t find a way to defeat the team he once cheered for. Burrow is now 0-4 in games against the Browns in his pro career and lost twice in Cleveland with very different lineups. The last time Burrow crashed at FirstEnergy Stadium, his Bengals team was slowly working towards a contest in his rookie season. This time, after lighting up the scoreboard at home a week earlier, his Bengals were expected to win. Instead, they came out flat, allowing a surprisingly energetic Browns team to capitalize throughout the night. This is officially a focus of his career and as he gets two meetings a year with the domestic rivals it won’t be the last we hear about it. However, Cincinnati will likely want to forget about this one as soon as possible.
  3. The Browns eventually committed to running the ball. The discourse on the Browns’ four-game losing streak focused on two key points: disappointing defense and lack of rush attempts Nick Chub. Browns fans doing their homework will be happy to know that Chubb got 23 carries Monday night — the breaking point between wins and losses for Cleveland was 20 Chubb tries — and he made the best of it, gaining 101 yards and two scored landings. After becoming too cute early in the game, Kevin Stefanski turned to his familiar back and enlisted extra help to get the job done. He sent seven offensive linemen to a goal-line package that Chubb snapped straight to the score. In the subsequent two-point conversion attempt, Stefanski threw another lineman (Drew Forbes) to lead the block as a fullback, giving the Browns an 8-0 lead and Cleveland some much-needed satisfaction. Cleveland is at its best when it keeps the ball on the ground, and Monday night’s 172 rushing yards proved it.
  4. Cincinnati needs to clean up the details. The Bengals came out flat on Monday night, pure and simple, almost as if their win over the Falcons entitled them to another win over a struggling Browns squad. The first three quarters saw missed passes on key downs and small errors, and the loss of cornerback Chidobe Awuzie only made the task more difficult for the Cincinnati defense. When the Bengals launched their first shot at goal of the night, they had 95 yards of offense in the third quarter with less than four minutes left. That total came from a team that had gained 537 yards eight days earlier. When the Bengals woke up from their 40-minute sleepwalk, the deficit was too great for them to overcome. If Cincinnati is to prove it wasn’t a one-and-done contender in the AFC, it must avoid performances like Monday night’s.
  5. Cleveland learns how to finish a game. For the first time since the Browns’ Week 3 win over Pittsburgh, they finally took the opportunity to knock out a team and capitalize. A tip on the cap is due for Amari Cooper, who threw an interception on a trick play and then rebounded to grab a trio of important receptions that directly contributed to Cleveland’s bottom line. The first was a 27-yard gain on a crossing route, and it was followed by a toe-tapping touchdown just moments later. And finally, against the third and long pass, Jacoby Brissett threw a pass to Cooper, who split two defenders in bottom field for a 53-yard reception that extended a crucial drive for Cleveland and resulted in a touchdown. Without those grabs, the Browns could very well have left another team back in a game they should have run away with. Instead, they were able to turn to Chubb and Kareem Hunt to slam the door. With tomorrow’s trading deadline approaching, we’ll see if the Browns still have both parts of that backfield tandem. But for one night, they proved as important as ever – with the backing of a valuable off-season acquisition.

Next gen stats of the game: Jacoby Brissett completed 8 of 9 passes with 10+ air yards for 216 yards in the win over the Bengals.

NFL Research: Myles Garrett had 1.5 sacks Monday night, giving him a career-tie 9.0 against the Bengals, the most tied against any team (Jets). He also had a sack against the Bengals in five straight games.


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