Rushing offense: D
With just 63 yards on 20 carries, the Bengals failed to average 4 yards per rush for the fourth consecutive week. The longest run of the day was a 10-yard scramble by quarterback Andy Dalton, which equaled the combined total of the longest runs by running backs Giovani Bernard (6 yards) and BenJarvus Green-Ellis (4). Facing a big fourth-and-1 at the Cleveland 7 early in the game, Green-Ellis got stuffed for a 2-yard loss.
Passing offense: D-
Andy Dalton completed only 23 of 42 passes for 206 yards and a passer rating of 58.2 that was the lowest of his career since a 40.8 against San Francisco in the third game of his rookie season. For most of the day, Dalton was zigging while A.J. Green was zagging as the duo connected on only seven of 15 targets. Dalton was actually an impressive 8 of 12 on third down, but that was because he repeatedly threw short of the sticks as the Bengals only converted 4 of 14 third downs all day. And both turnovers, a Dalton fumble and inteception, came in the passing game.
Rushing defense: B
The Bengals held the Browns to 89 yards on 30 carries (3.0 per attempt), but that’s probably right in line with what one would expect against a less-than-imposing backfield of Willis McGahee, Chris Ogbonnaya and Bobby Rainey. Cleveland’s longest run of the game, an 11-yarder by Ogbonnaya, came on a third-and-1 play at the start of what would be a 12-play, 95-yard touchdown drive. The Browns converted their only other third-down running play on a third-and-1 in the fourth quarter, keeping alive what would end up being a 12-play, 91-yard touchdown drive.
Passing defense: D
The Bengals kept Brian Hoyer from reaching 300 yards to keep alive their streak of 18 games without allowing a 300-yard passer, but that was about the only thing they stopped as Hoyer completed 25 of 38 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns. The Bengals repeatedly left receivers open on third down, allowing Hoyer to convert 9 of 17 before a final-play kneel down that left the Browns at an even 50 percent on third down conversions. In fairness, the Bengals were without three starters in the secondary. But the backups were no less experienced than the man they were facing as Hoyer, in just his third career start, connected on 15 of 17 targets to his two leading receivers on the day: Jordan Cameron (10 catches, 91 yards) and Chris Ogbonnaya (five catches, 21 yards).
Special teams: C+
The Bengals allowed the Browns’ Greg Little to gain 30 yards on each of his kickoff returns, but punter Kevin Huber did a good job keeping the ball out of the end zone on some short-field punts, dropping all three inside the 10. The only time he had a full field to work with, Huber unleashed a 50-yarder and the coverage unit allowed only a 7-yard return. Mike Nugent made both of his field goal attempts for the Bengals’ only points. Brandon Tate averaged 20 yards on three kickoff returns, but he made a poor decision in bringing one out from 6 yards deep in the second half, resulting in the Bengals having to start at their own 13.
Players play and coaches coach, and the responsibility for this loss sits more on the shoulders of the players, and specifically the ones on offense. But it was curious that a team which has made a habit of liberally using its timeouts at seemingly any point in the game failed to call one ahead of a crucial fourth-and-1 play at the Cleveland 7-yard line.