CINCINNATI — It was maybe the strangest quarter of the NFL season.
It got the Cincinnati Bengals out of a prolonged rut — and allowed the Bengals to tighten their grip on the AFC North Division.
The Bengals beat the Cleveland Browns, 41-20, on Sunday after trailing 13-0. A steady stream of boos for quarterback Andy Dalton after one of his two first-quarter interceptions was returned for a touchdown turned into wild cheers as the Bengals went for a franchise record 31 points in the second quarter.
The Browns scored none.
The quarter started with a touchdown, a 25-yard pass from Dalton to Jermaine Gresham just eight seconds in, and ended with a Mike Nugent 41-yard field goal with one second before halftime. There were plenty of Bengals highlights in between.
Before taking over with 20 seconds left before Nugent’s field goal, the Bengals had scored 28 points in the quarter on 69 total yards of offense.
A blocked punt for a touchdown and a fumble return for a touchdown helped that. The Bengals fell behind by double digits for the third straight game but this time rallied to win, ending a two-game losing streak and creating a little breathing room in the AFC North at 7-4 headed into their bye week.
The Bengals actually went three and out twice in the strange yet memorable second quarter. The second quarter time of possession was Browns 11:18, Bengals 3:42. Yet the score for the quarter was Bengals 31, Browns 0.
The Bengals actually got their hands on two Spencer Lanning punts in the quarter. The first punt the Bengals blocked officially counts as a deflection, not a block, because it ended up traveling past the line of scrimmage after Shawn Williams got a hand on it.
Five plays later, Dalton threw a six-yard touchdown pass to Mohamed Sanu to make it 14-13. The teams then traded three and outs, and with the Browns just short of midfield with 4:49 left in the second quarter Jayson DiManche came untouched at Lanning and blocked the punt.
Tony Dye, just signed this weekend as an emergency safety, returned it 44 yards for a Bengals touchdown.
Two plays later, a pass to the flats to Chris Ogbonnaya turned into a fumble after a big hit by Vontaze Burfict along the Bengals sideline. Burfict picked it up and ran 13 yards for the Bengals second touchdown in two minutes and fourth of the quarter.
The Bengals had more touchdowns (four) in the quarter than first downs (three). There was no stat available in the Browns media guide to tell if it was the most points the team had ever allowed in a quarter.
Dalton finished just 13-of-27 passing for 93 yards but didn’t turn it over past the first quarter. The Bengals won the game despite converting just one of 14 third-down tries and losing the time of possession battle by almost five minutes.