The Cleveland Browns held a 13-point lead over the Cincinnati Bengals heading into the second quarter of play at Paul Brown Stadium, but then, the home team rattled off a franchise-record 31 straight points, which keyed their 41-20 victory.
With the loss, the Browns fell to 4-6 overall and 2.5 games behind the Bengals for first place in the AFC North Division.
“It was an important opportunity for us, and we didn’t play the way we were capable of playing and weren’t able to get it done at the end of the day,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said. “I think that it’s important that we learn from this, and when we have an opportunity again, which we will in the future, this experience is something that guys will be able to draw from and that’ll help us.
“It was a lot of things that happened that are atypical. It was less about a snowball and more about some things happening that were more out of the ordinary that you don’t expect in a game.”
Although the Bengals scored 31 points in the second quarter, only two of the scores came from the offense and Cincinnati had to travel only a combined 60 yards for those two touchdowns.
The Bengals blocked two punts, including one that recently promoted safety Tony Dye returned 24 yards for a touchdown. On the Browns’ ensuing possession, running back
“The Bengals are a very good football team,” Chudzinski said. “They deserve credit for the game yesterday. I’m disappointed in our performance as a team. We simply had too many critical mistakes and critical errors, particularly in the second quarter. That coupled with not capitalizing on two early red-zone opportunities, the game just got away from us.
“We have to play better in all phases. Our veterans have to play better. Our young guys have to play better. And it needs to happen right away. I do feel confident that the things from yesterday that we were able to look at on tape we can correct.”
In addition to the one blocked punt and a second that was tipped but advanced past the line of scrimmage, which led to two Cincinnati touchdowns, the Browns had a net punting average of 27.4 yards over seven kicks.
They also gave up a 27-yard punt return to defensive back Adam Jones which set up Mike Nugent’s 41-yard field goal with one second remaining in the first half.
“It was very disappointing and unacceptable,” Chudzinski said. “We need to be better in that area. It has been a strength for us this season, and uncharacteristically, we didn’t play well. We had two major breakdowns and we’ll get that corrected.
“The first one was a pick-twist where we weren’t able to pass it off well enough. The second was just a straight rush that split our tackle and our wing.”
After two solid starts at Kansas City and in a win over the Baltimore Ravens, Browns quarterback Jason Campbell completed 27 of 56 attempts for 248 yards and one touchdown with three interceptions against the Bengals. He also was sacked four times for 20 lost yards.
Chudzinski attributed the drop in production to “a combination of things.”
“At times, there was good coverage and Cincinnati did a good job with their coverage where a check-down was the right thing to do,” Chudzinski said. “At times, some of the protection broke down, and so, Jason had to get rid of it early. At times, he hurried through his progression and or didn’t see it down the field.
“You’re not always going to play great every game. In the last three games that Jason has played, it’s been against three good defenses. I thought he played particularly well in the other two games. He was the first one to say he needs to be better. The key to the quarterback is how guys bounce back when they’re having some adversity or don’t play as well as they would’ve liked.”
PLAYING AT HOME
Of the Browns’ four victories this season, three have come at FirstEnergy Stadium, where the team will play three of their next four games.
Chudzinski said he believes the fans make a big difference for the Browns, and every other NFL team.
“Generally, teams are better at home (with) the energy, the crowd,” Chudzinski said. “I think the fans have been awesome, and our team feeds off that energy. You have to be able to win in both places, whether it’s on the road or at home and we need to do a better job on the road. We’re excited to be at home for the next three out of four weeks.”
During Sunday’s loss, linebacker