Cincinnati Bengals running back Cedric Benson (32) is tackled by Cleveland Browns defensive end Kenyon Coleman (90) in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 19, 2010, in Cincinnati.
By Tony Grossi
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Asked to explain the Browns’ inconsistent play against the NFL dregs, rookie quarterback Colt McCoy said: “I’m new to this, too. I’ve never been in this position.”
The Bengals shelved their destructive passing game for a day and ran over the Browns 45 times for 188 yards and held possession for 38 minutes in a 19-17 victory at Paul Brown Stadium.
Cedric Benson crushed the Browns for 150 yards and one touchdown.
The Browns committed no turnovers, had only three penalties and got an efficient game from McCoy (19-of-25, two touchdowns, 132.6 passer rating), playing his first game in a month. Despite that, the Browns managed to lose to a Bengals team that had lost 10 games in a row.
The Browns have lost in succession to 2-10 Buffalo and 2-11 Cincinnati.
Two weeks before that, they beat 1-10 Carolina by a single point.
“I think every time you play, regardless of record, it’s got to be consistent,” Mangini said. “There’s no game you go into showing up and not expecting the other team to give their best effort.”
The turning point came on the last possession of the first half and the first possession of the second half.
The Browns were driving late in the second quarter with the Bengals ahead, 10-7. They made it to the Bengals’ 31-yard line, but an 8-yard sack of McCoy killed them. McCoy made up 5 yards on a third-down completion, but the Browns were still out of field-goal range on a frigid day.
After a Bengals timeout, the Browns fielded their offense on fourth down and motioned into an unusual spread formation. The same formation produced a 20-yard touchdown pass to Robert Royal on their first possession. They were hoping to draw the Bengals offside, but it didn’t work, so the Browns called a timeout.
On fourth-and-7 from the 34, offsetting penalties gave the Browns another try. This time, John St. Clair was whistled for a false start, which resulted in a punt to end the half.
Kicker Phil Dawson said his limit to try a field goal going to that end zone was about 48 yards. So the Browns were close — until the McCoy sack.
The Bengals then began the second half at their 40, moved to the Browns’ 21 and made a 39-yard field goal for a 13-7 lead.
Cincinnati’s Clint Stitser increased the lead to 16-7 with the third of his career-day four field goals. That set up the next questionable decision by the Browns on offense.
They moved to the Bengals’ 5-yard line as the third quarter ended. On third-and-1, everyone knew what was coming: inside handoff to Peyton Hillis, who was stopped cold by a pack of Bengals.
“There was nothing there,” said Hillis, who had 59 yards on 14 carries. “Then again, it’s just a yard.”
On fourth-and-1 from the 5, Dawson closed the lead to 16-10 with a 23-yarder.
“With 12 minutes left, to be down by six, I wanted to get the [three] points,” Mangini said.
Stitser tacked on three more for a 19-10 Cincinnati lead but McCoy rustled up a quick touchdown on his next possession — 88 yards in five plays in less than two minutes. McCoy got the touchdown on a sideline pass to Brian Robiskie, who broke free from cornerback Keiwan Ratliff for a 46-yard score.
With 2:13 to play, Mangini again overruled one of his coaches — special teams coordinator Brad Seely — and tried on onside kick. Cleveland’s Titus Brown emerged with the football, but officials awarded possession to the Bengals’ Quan Cosby at the Browns’ 44.
The Browns had two good drives out of eight offensive possessions. One came at the beginning, one at the end. In between, they punted after five possessions and kicked the short field goal on another.
“It never felt like we got into the flow of things,” said Hillis. “You don’t establish yourself. The whole team has to be involved and motivated.”