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Game Review: Browns' 2nd Quarter Meltdown Hurts AFC North Hopes With 41-20 Loss to Bengals

Chris Pokorny breaks down the Cleveland Browns' 41-20 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns seemed to be having everything going their way. Although the offense wasn't crisp on their first couple of drives in the red zone, after a pick six by CB Joe Haden, the Browns found themselves with a 13-0 lead.

The AFC North belonged to Cleveland...and in a flash that no one could have seen coming, not even the Bengals, Cincinnati ripped off 31 unanswered points in the second quarter because of an interception, a deflected punt, a blocked punt, and a fumble. The NFL gods really must hate Cleveland. Let's get to my complete game review to see all of the positives and negatives.

Cleveland Browns vs. Cincinnati Bengals

1st 2nd 3rd 4th FINAL


  1. Goat of the Game: QB Jason Campbell - Fans who watched the game live or on television don't need me to tell them that Campbell had an awful game against the Bengals, looking nothing like the player that thrived against the Chiefs and the Ravens. With that said, color commentator Rich Gannon attributed a lot of Campbell's struggles to the play of the Cincinnati secondary.

    After watching the film, I did not find that to be true. Sure, every secondary is bound to win some battles, but the real problem was that Campbell was horribly inaccurate and indecisive when looking down the field most of the game.

  2. Awarding the Game Ball: CB Joe Haden - This was an obvious choice. He sparked the Browns to a 13-0 lead with two interceptions on back-to-back passes from Andy Dalton in the first quarter, one of which was a pick six. A.J. Green was held to just 2 catches for 7 yards on the afternoon, and neither of those catches came against Haden. Beast.

  3. Big Run for Ogbonnaya: The 43-yard run by RB Chris Ogbonnaya in the first quarter was by far the longest run by a Browns running back this year. It wasn't the longest run on offense this season, as WR Travis Benjamin had a 45-yard run earlier this season against the Lions.

    The Browns are going to crash to the right with their blocking on this play. Not seen in the photo above is WR Josh Gordon, who is coming from right to left (cyan arrow) for a possible end around. That will keep the linebacker on the far left side from cutting to the inside. TE Gary Barnidge is lined up as the fullback on this play.

    RG Shawn Lauvao is the only guy who whiffs on his block, but Barnidge does a very good job stymieing the rusher. Ogbonnaya does an immediate cutback upon getting the carry. The linebacker in the gap will recognize the cutback...

    ...but he overpursues, which allows Ogbonnaya to make a quick cut upfield and gain the bulk of his 43 yards on the run. If this had been RB Willis McGahee, I highly doubt he'd have the ability to make a cutback. Ogbonnaya isn't super fast, but even he's able to capitalize on a big play like this. Even if you take away the big run, Ogbonnaya still averaged 3.7 yards per carry on his other seven carries. He should be the starting tailback moving forward.

  4. First Missed TD, With Winn In: The Browns picked up a few more first downs after the Ogbonnaya run before facing 1st-and-goal at the 2 yard line. The first play was a handoff to McGahee, who picked up a yard to make it 2nd-and-goal at the 1 yard line. That's when the Browns ran the play below.

    Cleveland has all 11 players packed tight in the screenshot above, and DE Billy Winn is lined up as the fullback. Campbell will run a playaction fake and try to sell like he doesn't have the ball for a second. The hope is that Winn can sneak out into the flat wide open. I'm not sure if TE Jordan Cameron is designed to be a receiver on the play or not, but he leaks out late too into the corner. Note: not seen above is a Bengals defender who is to the far right of the field, where Winn will be running.

    The defender on the end does not fall for Winn being a blocker and immediately follows him. This is the type of play where Winn is not going to put a move on the defender to get open, so he should no longer be considered a viable target.

    For some reason, Campbell still seems focused on Winn only. Unless Cameron improvised, I don't understand why Campbell isn't searching for him immediately. Cameron has nothing but open field in front of him.

    Granted, this isn't a piece of cake throw, because Campbell is on the run and can't step into the throw as a rusher comes at him. You'd think an NFL quarterback should be able to throw a soft line drive to the corner so Cameron can get it, though. Instead, Campbell seems to intentionally throw the ball out of the back of the end zone, well over Cameron's head.

  5. Second Missed TD, Deflected Pass: On the very next play, now 3rd-and-goal at the 2 yard line (this is why Chud complained post-game -- how did we lose a yard? It affected whether we were going to go for it on fourth down), the Browns blew another opportunity.

    The middle guy in the trips bunch above if WR Greg Little. He is going to come across to the left side of the field.

    The Bengals have a breakdown in coverage. Little is coming wide open, and there literally is not a defender on the left half of the field. Campbell simply needs to loft a pass to Little, and he'll walk into the end zone still without a soul near him. Instead, he throws a low line drive that gets tipped by a defensive linemen. Even if the pass wasn't tipped, I think it might have hit Little in the feet. The Browns settled for a field goal and were up 3-0.

  6. Haden's First INT: On the first play of their next offensive series, QB Andy Dalton threw an interception to CB Joe Haden.

    Haden is at the bottom of the screen, playing off coverage on WR A.J. Green. He waits for Green to come to him, and is playing more toward the outside. Pay attention to LB D'Qwell Jackson, who is dropping back into zone coverage where Green is coming back to.

    Dalton doesn't see Jackson at first, and after he's already committed to throwing to Green, he tries to throw the ball to his outside shoulder to avoid Jackson from jumping the route. The problem? Dalton overthrows the pass, and it happens to go into the waiting hands of Haden.

  7. A Sign of Campbell's Indecisiveness: The Browns started their drive in the red zone after the Haden pick. Facing a 2nd-and-6 from the 10 yard line, QB Jason Campbell showed off some more of his indecisiveness that would continue throughout the game.

    At the top of the screen, WR Greg Little is running a comeback route to the outside. TE Jordan Cameron is streaking up the seam. RB Chris Ogbonnaya is going an in-and-out route.

    The two players in coverage near Cameron are more focused on Ogbonnaya. Campbell seems to be looking Cameron's way, and the safety really isn't near him. A good throw, even one that is led to Cameron's outside shoulder, should net a touchdown here. Instead, Campbell delivers a pump fake.

    After the fake, you can tell how Cameron still would've been relatively open had the ball been thrown. Nonetheless, it does draw one of the players on Ogbonnaya back. A good throw to Ogbonnaya here would allow him to pick up a first down, and possibly even make a move to get in for a touchdown. Instead, the pass gets where Greg Little is standing, at his feet, with the defensive back almost jumping the route. Eventually, the Browns had to settle for another field goal, going up 6-0.

  8. Haden's Second INT for a Pick Six: Despite the Browns' struggles in the red zone, QB Andy Dalton wanted to hand Cleveland the game when his next pass was intercepted by Haden again, this time for a touchdown.

    Once again, Haden is playing off coverage on Green at the bottom of the screen. I'm not quite sure what tempted Dalton to want to challenge Haden again, but he did.

    If Dalton is going to make this throw, it needs to be to the outside since that is where Green is going. Instead, the throw is closer to Green's inside, but still to the point where Haden has to make a nice jump/play on the ball.

    ...and that he does. This time, there is nothing but grass ahead of Haden, who takes it the distance to give Cleveland a 13-0 lead. Unfortunately, this would pretty much be the last joyful moment of the game for Cleveland fans (although the defense did force another three-and-out on the next series).

  9. Campbell's INT Sets Everything Up: People who have read my game reviews before know that I always think about the butterfly effect. In this game, Campbell's interception with under a minute to go in the first quarter is what sparked the entire disaster that was the second quarter. Up 13-0, if we didn't turn the ball over (including special teams) but did nothing on offense, I think we could have won the game with just 13 points -- that's how good our defense was playing when the Bengals weren't working with a short field.

    Anyway, let's get to the play. The Browns have max protection and send two receivers out after a playaction fake -- both guys doing comeback routes.

    WR Josh Gordon is open at the bottom of the screen, but Campbell throws another low pass. It gets tipped by a defensive lineman again, and perhaps by luck, LB James Harrison had decided to float into the flat, so the tipped pass ends up in his arms. A penalty wiped out the pick six part of Harrison's return, but it only delayed the inevitable by a couple of plays.

  10. Dalton Finds Gresham for a TD: The first play after the interception, the Browns stuffed RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis for a loss of 3 yards, making it 2nd-and-13 at the 25 yard line. I was hoping our defense could deliver again to make it a 13-3 game at worst.

    Unfortunately, QB Andy Dalton made his best throw of the game on this play, but it wasn't a very difficult read for him to make. He will look at TE Jermaine Gresham in the slot to his right. Once he sees our cornerback take the flat route, he knows a good throw will give Gresham the advantage on the flag route no matter what defender comes over. In our case, the defender is LB Craig Robertson, who has to travel a long way to cover this route.

    CB Joe Haden breaks off covering WR A.J. Green on the post, and S T.J. Ward is sprinting toward the area from the middle of the field. The ball is just beyond Robertson's stretch, and Ward whiffs on his attempt to deliver a big blow (which possibly could have jarred the ball loose, or drawn a penalty). Haden was spinning around trying to locate the play, so he never really had a chance to do much here. The Bengals were now down 13-7.

  11. Deflected & Blocked Punts: I already did a film review piece on the Browns' deflected and then blocked punt against the Bengals. For the context of this review, after the Browns went three-and-out on their next series (caused by a screen play that was dead from the get go and then a false start), P Spencer Lanning had a punt deflected, so it only traveled 9 yards and gave Cincinnati the ball at the 38 yard line.

  12. Bengals Get Browns With Trick Play: Facing a 2nd-and-6, the Bengals pulled out their bag of tricks with a wide receiver pass.

    WR Mohamed Sanu, who is at the bottom of the screen, drops back. The tight end in front of him blocks. QB Andy Dalton throws the ball behind the line of scrimmage to Sanu.

    The entire defense is drawn toward Sanu, while RB Giovani Bernard is the only player going in the opposite direction. OLB Barkevious Mingo was headed toward everybody else at first, but suddenly has an "oh shit" moment starts sprinting to where he thinks Bernard is.

    Think of everything Cincinnati needed to have go right here: a wide receiver needed to throw a perfect pass a long distance, which he did. Then, Mingo is probably an inch away from knocking this ball away. On top of that, Bernard has to keep his concentration and haul in the pass while staying in bounds. The Bengals hit on all cylinders.

    The ball does come out after Bernard rolls around on the ground, and Rob Chudzinski loses a challenge because the officials don't overturn the call. It's iffy, and I only say that because I've seen it called both ways. Personally, I think it's good enough to be a catch.

  13. Dalton Finds Sanu for a TD: Now, the defense is just trying to hold Cincinnati to without a touchdown.

    Facing a 3rd-and-goal from the 6 yard line, WR Mohamed Sanu is lined up in the slot to the right with CB Buster Skrine over him. CB Chris Owens is playing the outside right receiver at the top of the screen, and S T.J. Ward is on that side of the field in the end zone.

    Once again, the Browns have a communication issue in the red zone. Skrine stays home in zone coverage, while Owens creeps up. He then retreats when he sees Dalton winding up, but it's too late -- the second-best throw of the day by Dalton is completed in the corner of the end zone to Sanu, putting them up 14-13. The body language by Ward after the play would seem to indicate that he was asking Owens what happened, meaning Owens was likely at fault.

  14. Campbell's Indecisiveness, Part I: As disastrous as it was to lose the 13-0 lead, Cleveland needed QB Jason Campbell to be strong for the offense. Unfortunately, for the rest of the second quarter, he remained indecisive.

    This is the first offensive play after the Browns went down 14-13, so they are facing a 1st-and-10 from the 20 yard line.

    There are only three receivers going out on this play, so Campbell doesn't have a lot to choose from. If someone is open, he needs to let it rip. He seems to be looking toward the bottom of the screen here, where TE Jordan Cameron is getting open on an out route to the sideline. Campbell hesitates, steps up in the pocket, and then takes a two-yard sack. The Browns punt a couple plays later.

  15. Campbell's Indecisiveness, Part II: After the Browns' defense forced another three-and-out, Cleveland took over at the 10 yard line. They strung together a couple of decent plays to move the chains, and now faced a 1st-and-10 at the 43 yard line.

    RB Willis McGahee is in the game at tailback, and I cringe every time we throw him a pass because I know it's going to go for no gain.

    LG John Greco doesn't do Campbell any favors here by losing his man, but WR Greg Little is breaking open over the middle of the field.

    Here is another perspective, showing how Little should have a catch and a nice gain here. Campbell seems to see the rusher starting to come, but he's far enough away that a throw could still be made. Campbell plays it safe and dumps it off to McGahee, who gets one measly yard.

  16. Campbell's Indecisiveness, Part III: Two plays later, the Browns faced a 3rd-and-6.

    WR Davone Bess is lined up in the slot to the left of QB Jason Campbell.

    Campbell should know what routes his receivers are running, so this pass to Bess over the middle should actually be out a hair sooner -- before he completes his break -- so that the defender on the other side can't drill him with a big hit. Notice how two other receivers also have single coverage and a relative advantage for getting a first down.

    The throw is behind Bess and falls incomplete. After this, the Bengals blocked P Spencer Lanning's punt and ran it back for a touchdown to take a 21-13 lead.

  17. Ogbonnaya's Fumble: Anything, even a field goal, before the half might have stopped the bleeding just a bit. The thing we could not afford was for things to get worse.

    A penalty led us to being in a 2nd-and-13 situation.

    Campbell notices that RB Chris Ogbonnaya is running his route with the defender trailing him. I don't think this is a terrible decision by Campbell; it would seem like maybe it could be a nice catch-and-run. On the other hand, Campbell had a deep dropback, so even if Ogbonnaya gets upfield after a catch, he'd have to do a whole lot more than that to move the chains. The Bengals close very fast on Ogbonnaya, and deliver a perfect shot to jar the ball loose and complete the demoralizing of the Browns, going up 28-13 after a fumble returned for a touchdown.

  18. Funk Continued Just Before the Half: Actually, the "bad" wasn't entirely over yet.

    Facing a 2nd-and-5 with just over two minutes the play in the half, the Browns line up to pass.

    QB Jason Campbell has opportunities to hit an open WR Josh Gordon or TE Jordan Cameron down the field. Instead, he goes for WR Davone Bess, who has two defenders shadowing him. The pass is overthrown anyway and falls incomplete.

    Then, there was another bad decision before the end of the half -- on another series with under a minute to go, Cleveland faced a 3rd-and-13 and the Bengals had one timeout left. Campbell checked down to Cameron for two yards, and Cameron appeared to try to get to the sideline, and the defender forced him out of bounds. The Bengals got to preserve their timeout, even though they didn't need it after a big punt return set up a field goal to go into half time.

  19. Gordon With a Glimmer of Hope: The only time I saw QB Jason Campbell be more aggressive -- albeit still relatively inaccurate -- was on the first several series of the third quarter. Cleveland drove down the field 34 yards away from the end zone, but couldn't convert on 3rd-and-5 or 4th-and-5 and turned the ball over on downs.

    On the next series, the Browns actually got a glimmer of hope to remain in the game.

    WR Josh Gordon was in the slot to Campbell's right. He is running a wheel route of sorts up the sideline.

    Campbell looks left, which draws the single safety over there. He then turns to his left and airs a deep ball out for Gordon.

    This is an oustanding throw, hitting Gordon on the sideline and in stride, allowing him to go 74 yards for the touchdown. 31-20 didn't look as bad, and with 9:29 left in the third quarter, the game still seemed like it was in reach.

  20. Greco Whiffs on One Last Gasp: Unfortunately, as projected before the game, the pouring rain came down in the second half, right after the big play to Gordon. That led to some more inaccurate throws by Campbell on his next series, which ended with an overthrown ball in the direction of WR Greg Little that was intercepted.


    When the rain finally slowed down a little bit, Cleveland faced a 3rd-and-2 situation with under a minute remaining in the third quarter. A drive would keep them in the game. TE Jordan Cameron is doing his in-and-out route here, and I think he would be the target for a first down.

    Unfortunately, LG John Greco completely whiffed on the guy in front of him, and Campbell has no chance to make a play here as he takes a loss of 11 yards. Watching the game live, it seemed like Cleveland's offensive line didn't have their best game. Upon further review, I thought Greco had a pretty bad game overall in pass protection, but that the rest of the guys were fine.

    With the sack, Cleveland punted, Cincinnati had a short field, and got their running game going for the first time all game, leading to a touchdown to put them back up by 18 points. I didn't bother reviewing the rest of the game in-depth after that; down by that many points in the fourth quarter, there's not much you can do.

  21. Final Assessments: The performance that QB Jason Campbell had this week is the reason I was not excited about him heading into the Chiefs game. He had a string of two surprising games, and we can only hope that he re-channels that type of play against the Steelers. For now, I don't think we'll go back to QB Brandon Weeden.

    The defense played very well, and special teams was terrible both in punt protection and in punt coverage. We need to get that patched up -- hopefully TE MarQueis Gray can return soon since he fulfills one of those protection roles. I view this game as an anomaly of sorts due to the second quarter, but our players have to realize that these next two games have now become must-win games.

  22. Special Teams Tackles: There were three special teams tackles by the Browns with one each for OLB Barkevious Mingo, DB Jordan Poyer, and P Spencer Lanning.

  23. Snap Counts on Offense & Defense: If you missed them, here are the links to our snap count trackers for offense (link) and defense (link). On offense, RB Willis McGahee didn't see many snaps due to the team being behind by so much in the second half. On defense, LB Tank Carder took over for LB Craig Robertson after he suffered a knee sprain.

  24. Brownies: The Bengals were just 1-of-14 (7%) on third downs, although their only conversion was QB Andy Dalton's touchdown pass to WR Mohamed Sanu. ... In the fourth quarter, former Browns TE Alex Smith caught a two-yard touchdown pass against us. ... The Browns did not register any sacks, but they did get pressure and did a good job in coverage. ... The average starting field position for the Browns was at their own 24 yard line. ... The average starting field position for the Bengals was at their own 42 yard line, which is a huge difference.

Up next, the Browns take on the Steelers. Pittsburgh is on a bit of a hot streak -- they are a resilient team that shows glimpses of their former fame, but have had more games where they look over-the-hill. Hopefully the Browns get the over-the-hill Steelers on Sunday.