Special teams fail Browns in loss at Cincinnati

CINCINNATI — In a game that started all Browns, the tide quickly changed. It was more like an avalanche as a 13-0 lead turned into a 31-13 deficit as the Bengals scored a record 31 unanswered points in the second quarter and coasted to a 41-20 win.

The loss drops the Browns to 4-6 and the Bengals increased their AFC North lead with a record of 7-4.

“We weren’t able to overcome the second quarter,” head coach Rob Chudzinski said. “The game got away from us.”

In a game with threatening weather conditions throughout, the Browns squandered two golden opportunities in the red zone early that resulted in field goals. The Browns had the ball first-and-goal at the two-yard line after a penalty by Vontaze Burfict. Chris Ogbonnaya had a 43-yard run to move the ball to the Bengals’ 43 and then a 12-yard pass to Ogbonnaya moved the ball to the 12. However, after the penalty to the two, Willis McGahee gained just one yard on a run and then Campbell threw an incomplete pass and had a pass batted down by Michael Johnson forcing a Billy Cundiff field goal of 20 yards.

“In the red zone, we couldn’t score down there,” Chudzinski said. “You never want to settle (for field goals).”

Campbell agreed.

“We needed to get touchdowns, not field goals,” Campbell said. “We could’ve been up 21-0.

“We were close,” he said. “The one pass (at the goal line) got tipped. We can’t let those opportunities slip through on the road.”

On the Bengals first play after the score, Joe Haden stepped in front of A.J. Green and intercepted Andy Dalton and returned the ball 15 yards to the Bengals’ 14. Campbell threw a short pass to Greg Little to the 10 and then two incomplete passes forced the Browns to settle for Cundiff’s second field goal, from 28 yards to make it 6-0.

On the second play by the Bengals, Dalton again tried to hit Green and Haden stepped in front of him and made his second interception of the game, returning it 29 yards for a touchdown to make it 13-0 with 2:19 to play in the first quarter. It was Haden’s first career interception for a touchdown and third interception of the season. The Browns led 13-0, but easily should’ve been up 17-0 or 21-0 at that point.

However, on the next Browns possession, Campbell was intercepted by James Harrison and the Bengals started at the Browns’ 22 and scored a touchdown two plays later on the first play of the second quarter.

After another three and out, Spencer Lanning’s punt was partially blocked by Shawn Williams and went just nine yards. After the short punt to the Browns’ 38, the Bengals scored their second touchdown to take a 14-13 lead when Dalton hit Mohamed Sanu for the score with 11:49 to play in the first half.

The Bengals picked up a special team touchdown as Jayson DiManche blocked Lanning’s punt and Tony Dye returned it 24 yards for a touchdown to make it 21-13. Less than two minutes later, Burfict picked up a fumble by Ogbonnaya and returned it 13 yards for a touchdown to make it 28-13.

“We just have to do our job and execute,” Ogbonnaya said.

Harrison scored on his interception, but an illegal block negated the score. Otherwise, three of the first four Bengal touchdowns would’ve come as a result of the defense or special teams.

 Just before the half, the Browns elected to not run out the clock and after a three-and-out punted to the Bengals and Adam Jones returned the punt 27 yards to the Browns’ 32 to set up a 41-yard field goal by Mike Nugent to make it 31-13 at the half.

Despite putting 31 points on the board in the second quarter, the Bengals offense had just three first downs and 108 total yards at the half.  Dalton was 8-of-18 for 63 yards with two touchdowns and two  interceptions and a 51.2 rating. The Bengals had 20 yards rushing in the first half.

The Browns entered the game with a chance to pull within a half game with the Bengals for the top spot in the AFC North, but instead dropped into a tie with the 4-6 Steelers.

That means next week’s game with the Steelers will be a battle to avoid last place.

“It’s very disappointing,” Campbell said. “It’s only one game and it’s all about bouncing back.”

Chudzinski agreed.

“There’s a lot of games left,” he said. “We’ll play hard. We have to dig deep, it’s Steeler’s week.”


— QB Jason Campbell had a poor outing after posting back-to-back 100-plus ratings. He threw his first interception that was returned for a would-be touchdown by LB James Harrison. However, an illegal block by DL Brandon Thompson negated the score and the Bengals started at the Browns 22. Campbell threw his second interception of the game in the third quarter as S Reggie Nelson picked it off at the Browns’ 48. Campbell’s bright spot was a nice 74-yard touchdown pass to WR Josh Gordon. He finished 27-of-56 for 248 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions for a rating of just 44.3. Bengals QB Andy Dalton was just 13-of-27 for 93 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. His rating was 62.7.

— WR Josh Gordon awoke the Browns anemic offense briefly in the second half as he raced down the sideline and went 74 yards for a touchdown to make the score 31-20 with 9:29 to play in the third quarter. Gordon had five receptions for 125 yards and a touchdown. WR Greg Little had one catch for four yards and WR Davone Bess had one catch for three yards. TE Jordan Cameron had six catches for 29 yards.

— RB Chris Ogbonnaya had a seven-yard run on his first carry and then a career best 43-yard run on his second carry to the Bengals 25. He averaged 5.3 per carry before the game. Ogbonnaya had 61 yards rushing in the first half on just six attempts (10.2 avg.). He also had four receptions for 20 yards. He finished with 69 yards rushing on eight carries (8.6 avg.) and caught six passes for 30 yards. Ogbonnaya fumbled the ball after catching a short two-yard pass and Burfict scooped it up for a touchdown. RB Willis McGahee had six carries for 13 yards, while RB Fozzy Whittaker had four carries for 20 yards and caught five passes for 41 yards.

— DB Joe Haden was a bright spot for the Browns as he held Bengals’ WR A.J. Green to two receptions for 7 yards, including a long of four yards. He had two tackles and two passes broken up.

— LB D’Qwell Jackson led the Browns with 9 tackles, followed by LB Tank Carder with 7.

— The Browns did not sack QB Andy Dalton. Meanwhile, the Bengals sacked QB Jason Campbell four times.

— LB Craig Robertson left the game with a knee injury. He returned briefly, but left for the game. WR/PR Armanti Edwards left the game, as well.

— Due to the impending weather conditions, the Browns left 30 minutes after the game for the airport, limiting post-game interviews.

—  Former Browns Mike McCormack, who played for the Browns from 1954-62 died Friday at the age of 83. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1984.The Browns are wearing a memorial decal for the rest of the season honoring McCormack.

— OL Jason Pinkston was active for the first time since the sixth game of the 2012 season when he left with a blood clot in his lung. Pinkston was placed on injured reserve and there was concern that he would never play football again. He was cleared before training camp, but suffered a high ankle sprain against the Lions in the preseason. He was on injured reserve/designated for return. He was activated during the bye week, but didn’t play.The Browns’ inactive were TE MarQueis Gray (hamstring), LB Brandon Magee, OL Patrick Lewis, OL Martin Wallace, OL Garrett Gilkey, OL Reid Fragel and DL Ishmaa’ily Kitchen. For the Bengals: CB Chris Crocker, RB Rex Burkhead, LB Rey Maualuga, OL Kevin Zeitler, OL Tanner Hawkinson, DL Devon Still and WR Ryan Whalen.