The Browns beat the Bengals in their opener, 24-3
CLEVELAND — Quarterback Joe Burrow and the Bengals offense couldn’t find their footing on a rain-soaked field here in Sunday’s NFL opener that the Browns owned, 24-3.
The timing was not there as Burrow, who returned to practice just two weeks after two training camp practices, was held to 82 yards. When Jake Browning replaced him late, it marked the first time Burrow had never thrown for 100 yards on a kickoff. Working against the most accurate pass grading of all time, Brown Burrow held on to 14 of 31 passes. Entering the game, Burrow averaged 295 passing yards against Cleveland, the most ever by a Bengals signal caller in five or more games against the Browns.
The Bengals’ defense kept them in the game as long as possible, but the time of possession approached nine minutes late in the game as the Browns broke their 200-yard rushing barrier. Rookie Brad Robins punted 10 times in his NFL debut, averaging 40.9 yards per punt. He was just shy of the team’s single-game record of 11.
Evan McPherson cut the lead to 10-3 on the Bengals’ first series of the second half with a 42-yard field goal and Dax Hill’s first NFL interception on a Watson pass gave them a shot to tie the game. At the 50. With the Browns turning up the heat, Burrow and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase converted third-and-2, but three plays later the offense faced a third-and-four from the Browns 33 and a deep ball to Higgins was sacked down the right sideline wide of the Safety Road Grant Delpit.
McPherson, perfect in the preseason, went wide for a 51-yarder.
The Bengals offense spent the first half trying to find its sea legs and fell behind 10-0. Seven drives. Seven balls. Five three and outs. Burrow had just 36 yards passing on six of 14, the worst half of his 43 NFL starts. With the Browns all over his receivers against a good pass rush, Burrow’s longest pass was a 12-yarder to Chase on a sideline. That came on the first drive of the game and was the only third-down conversion of the half as they missed the last seven plays.
Their best drives came in four straight overs and fullback Joe Mixon had 34 in two of them. They found themselves looking at third-and-3 from the Cleveland 38. Burrow hit a shot to wide receiver Tee Higgins working cornerback Denzel Ward down the right sideline and Higgins jumped over him but could only get one hand on the ball. Higgins was taken into custody without being arrested in the afternoon.
It was the first time the Bengals had been shut out in the first half since last Halloween night here in a 32-13 loss.
The Bengals defense kept them in the game. They were able to keep Cleveland out of the end zone until 17 seconds left in the first half. Watson’s best ball of the game came on third-and-10 with one minute to go. Edge Trey Hendrickson dropped into coverage and wide receiver Amari Cooper was able to get away from cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt. Then the Bengals’ No. 13 Watson sent four receivers right and the tying run ran untouched right for the only touchdown of the half.
With the Browns leading the way, Bengals cornerback Chidobe Awuzie made a triumphant return to the field as he tore his Halloween night ACL. Late in the scoreless first quarter, Chubb Cleveland ran to the doorstep of the red zone after safety Nick Scott reached the end zone to knock out a Watson bomb to Olympic runner Marquise Goodwin. Then linebacker Jermaine Brate was up to his old tricks, ripping the ball from backup running back Jerome Ford and when the ball came out at the Bengals’ 13, Awuzie caught it.