By Mario McKellop
The Cleveland Browns continued their historic losing streak in Week 14, falling to the Cincinnati Bengals, 23-10. Since the Bengals were 4-7-1 coming into this game and missing a star player, it was hoped that the Browns could finally turn things. However, even with the return of quarterback Robert Griffin III, the Browns once again proved incapable of overcoming the deficits that have made this the team’s worst season ever.
Despite showing some signs of life in the second half, the Browns offense was pretty pitiful in this game. It was assumed that the crux of the Browns’ offensive issues this season had to do with the lack of a quality quarterback. After Robert Griffin III was injured in Week 1, the team had to rely on 14-year veteran Josh McCown and 2015 draft pick Cody Kessler. With a more seasoned but less battered QB at the helm, it was believed that Cleveland could get back on track. Today, that hope was definitively shattered.
RG3 only completed 12 of his 28 passing attempts for a total of 104 yards and one interception. The returning QB did score a 1-yard rushing TD in the third quarter, but by that point, the home team was already behind by 13 points. It could be argued that RG3 was simply suffering from some rust, but he really wasn’t much worse than he was in the Browns’ Week 1 game against the Philadelphia Eagles. In that face-off, he went 12/26 on passes for a total 190 and also threw one inception. Rust also doesn’t account for the shouting match he had with wide receiver Terrelle Pryor in the third quarter. At this point, the best way for the Browns to improve their offense is to start over from scratch.
Although the Browns were not blown out to the degree that they were during their Week 7 loss to the Bengals, things did not go well for the home team. The Browns defense largely proved unable to stop QB Andy Dalton, as he completed 20 of his 28 passes for 180 yards. They also proved ineffective against tight end Tyler Eifert, who caught five passes, including two TDs for a total of 48 yards. The defeat should be especially galling for the Browns as the Bengals’ superstar wide receiver A.J. Green didn’t play as a result of a hamstring tear he sustained against the Bills in Week 11. When the opposition can trounce the Browns without one of their key offensive players, the defense clearly needs a major overhaul.
Special Teams: B
Place kicker Cody Parkey had yet another solid performance. He hit the PAT after RG3’s sole touchdown and landed a 30-yard field goal in the third quarter, ensuring that the Browns didn’t leave the field with their lowest scoring game of the season. Defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah also deserves praise for scooping up Bengal’s PK Mike Nugent’s failed PAT and gracefully passing the ball to linebacker Demario Davis, who then made a lateral to cornerback Joe Haden, who in turned lateralled the ball to strong safety Ibraheim Campbell. Sadly, Campbell was tackled before he could do anything significant, but it was a thrilling play all the same.
One might think that because head coach Hue Jackson served as the Bengals offensive coordinator from 2014 to 2015 that he’d have some tactical insights that would give the Browns an edge. However, just as in their Week 7 face off, whatever insights Jackson might have didn’t have much impact on the game’s outcome. The best thing Jackson did this week in terms of coaching was hinting to the press and fans that they shouldn’t have outsized expectations regarding RG3’s return. As it turns out, he was dead on in his assessment.
Up Next: The Browns will be heading to Orchard Park, New York to take on the Buffalo Bills in Week 15.