...and we thought the collapse against the Bengals in 2007 was bad. Cleveland Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski did indeed live through a case of déjà vu in a big game against the Bengals, losing on the road by a final score of 41-20.
The crazy part about this game is that Cleveland dominated the majority of the first quarter. The Browns' defense forced a couple of three-and-outs, and after a drive saw them have a 1st-and-goal at the two yard line, Cleveland had to settle for a 20-yard field goal by Billy Cundiff. On the Bengals' first play of their next series, Joe Haden intercepted a pass by Andy Dalton, setting Cleveland up with great field position. They failed in the red zone again and settled for another field goal by Cundiff, this time from 28 yards out.
Despite the Browns' red zone issues, on Dalton's next pass, he was picked off again by Haden, this time for a 29-yard touchdown to go up 13-0. The Bengals went three-and-out on their next possession and had to punt. It seemed like the Browns were well on their way to taking control of the AFC North. That's when the disaster commenced.
- To close out the first quarter, QB Jason Campbell had a pass tipped and intercepted by LB James Harrison. The Bengals then got a 25-yard touchdown pass from Dalton to TE Jermaine Gresham to make it 13-7.
- The Browns went three-and-out, and P Spencer Lanning had a punt deflected to give Cincinnati good field position. The Bengals executed a trick play with WR Mohamed Sanu throwing a pass to RB Gionvani Bernard, and Dalton threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Sanu a few plays later to go up 14-13.
- Toward the end of the second quarter, the Bengals blocked a punt by Lanning and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown, making it a 21-13 game. On the Browns' next drive, RB Chris Ogbonnaya fumbled and LB Vontaze Burfict scooped it up and ran it in for a 13-yard touchdown return to go up 28-13.
- The Browns didn't run out the clock to end the half, and Cincinnati tacked on a field goal to cap off 31 unanswered points and go into the half up 31-13.
The Browns showed a glimmer of hope when they got a 74-yard touchdown pass from Campbell to WR Josh Gordon in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 31-20. The rain started to pour heavily, as expected, and Cincinnati had the advantage. They eventually went on to win 41-20.
This was a disastrous game for the Browns' special teams and for QB Jason Campbell. You can't blame the defense whatsoever for the outcome of this game. With Pittsburgh winning, the Browns actually find themselves slipping to last place in the AFC North, but it's not all a loss for the wildcard race, which I will get in to later on.
This isn't the end for Cleveland's playoff hopes, but their divisional hopes took a bit hit. Next week's game against the Steelers just got a whole lot more important.