The Bengals received the opening kickoff, and QB Andy Dalton had his offense moving down the field with chunk plays. By time he got to the red zone, he couldn’t find anyone on third down, leading to an intentional grounding call. K Randy Bullock’s 34-yard field goal made it a 3-0 game.
The Browns were picking up chunk plays of their own, with QB Baker Mayfield going 4-of-4 on the opening drive for 53 yards. But his last pass was a unique one — he threw it to TE David Njoku, who made the catch, hit the ground, and then after hitting the ground, the ball was ripped out by LB Nick Vigil. The call on the field was a catch-fumble, which is physically impossible (if anything, it would’ve been an interception - edit: it was later changed to an INT). The ruling on the field stood, giving Cincinnati the ball and great field position.
RB Joe Mixon got into CB Greedy Williams’ face after a run, drawing a 15-yard penalty. That set the Bengals up for 3rd-and-long, and then Dalton’s pass to a receiver was behind and tipped, and right into the arms of CB Denzel Ward for a 61-yard pick six to give the Browns a 7-3 lead.
The Bengals’ next drive featured a double reverse pass from WR Alex Erickson to RB Giovani Bernard that went for 26 yards. In the red zone, DL Sheldon Richardson had a tackle for a loss and then a sack on back-to-back plays to hold Cincinnati to a 44-yard field goal, making it a 7-6 game.
On Cleveland’s second offensive drive of the game, Mayfield’s first pass to Beckham was jumped by a defender and nearly intercepted. After Hunt was hit for no gain on second down, Mayfield tried firing a bullet downfield to an open WR KhaDarel Hodge in the seam, but the ball was behind him, tipped twice, and intercepted.
Cincinnati capitalized, once again moving the ball rather easily. This time, instead of settling for a field goal in the red zone, Mixon punched it in from two yards out to give the Bengals a 13-7 lead.
Cleveland responded to re-take the lead, with three key plays on the drive being on third down — starting with a 3rd-and-19 completion to WR Jarvis Landry for 20 yards, and then finding Beckham on 3rd-and-6 for a gain of 21 yards. Down in a goal-to-go situation, Mayfield faced a 3rd-and-goal from the 6 yard line. He saw an opening and took off around the left edge, making an athletic play by diving from the two yard line to the pylon for a touchdown to re-take the lead at 14-13.
The Browns’ defense responded with a three-and-out on the Bengals’ next drive, and then P Kevin Huber had a low and short punt of 36 yards with a 10-yard return, so the net of 36 yards set Cleveland up just past midfield with five minutes to go in the quarter. Then it was the Browns who went three-and-out, though — a sack, an overturned catch by Beckham, and then a drop by Beckham amidst three Bengals defenders. Paralleling the Bengals, P Jamie Gillan’s punt only went 29 yards.
Cincinnati ended up punting back to the Browns with under two minutes to go. Backed up in their own territory, the Browns finally picked this point of the game to run the ball twice, but Cincinnati called a timeout to try to get the ball back. On 3rd-and-5, Mayfield’s pass was way too hot and in front for WR Damion Ratley. Gillan got a good punt off this time for 54 yards, and then a 15 yard facemask penalty on Cincinnati really changed field position, pretty much ending the half.
After hardly running at all in the first half, Cleveland began the third quarter with four straight run plays. On the fourth one, Cincinnati jumped offsides, but it didn’t matter — Chubb broke several tackles on his way to a 57-yard gain, down to the 3 yard line:
On 2nd-and-goal from the 3 yard line, Hunt took it around the left edge for a touchdown to give the Browns a 21-13 lead.
The Bengals put together a lengthy drive that got even longer near the red zone, with Cincinnati converting a 4th-and-short to set up 1st-and-goal from the 2 yard line. DL Bryan Cox forced a sack on first down though, which ended up leading to a 28-yard field goal to make it a 21-16 game with 4:39 left in the third quarter.
Cleveland was running the ball well on their next drive again, but on 3rd-and-3 from the 35 yard line, Mayfield’s pass was batted down. It was decision time for Freddie Kitchens, and he sent K Austin Seibert out to try a field goal from 53 yards out. Seibert drilled it right down the middle, his first career make from beyond 50 yards, to give the Browns a 24-16 lead with 16 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Bengals’ drive to open the fourth quarter saw Mixon continue to churn out yards in chunks, and then Dalton completed a key third down pass to WR Tyler Boyd for a first down to the red zone. A few more plays set the Bengals up with a 1st-and-goal at the 7 yard line. Two short runs by Mixon set up 3rd-and-goal from the 4 yard line. Cleveland brought the heavy blitz, forcing Dalton to throw it away and go for it on fourth down with 7:20 to go in the game. The fourth down call was a quarterback keeper, and Cleveland sniffed it out, ending the 8-minute drive with no points.
Cleveland took over at the 2 yard line. After getting the first down, the Browns had a chance to put the game away with a short throw to the running back. But Mayfield wanted to be more aggressive, and went for Landry downfield. It looked like a catch by Landry, but it was ruled incomplete on the field, and Kitchens’ challenge didn’t overturn it. On third down, Mayfield tried throwing the ball to Beckham on a slant again, but the ball was tipped and intercepted. However officials reviewed the play and called pass interference going in Cleveland’s favor for a first down. A 34-yard screen pass to Landry put the game away pretty much, as Cincinnati burned their final timeout.
Cleveland ran once heading into the two-minute warning. On second down, though, Landry was called for an illegal crackback block — Cincinnati declined to penalty to wisely stop the clock, while keeping it a third down for the next play. Chubb’s third down carry led to 4th-and-4 from the 19 yard line with 1:09 to go. Seibert connected from 31 yards out to make it a 27-16 game.
Cincinnati quickly marched into field goal range with 0:16 left, and needing two scores, send Bullock out for a 46-yard attempt. His kick was good, making it a 27-19 game with 0:12 left and the Bengals ready to try an onside kick. The Bengals bulleted the ball off of a Browns player, and it nearly ricocheted back, but CB T.J. Carrie dove on the ball to secure the win.
- QB Baker Mayfield: 11-of-24 for 192 yards, 2 INT. 3 rushes, 12 yards, 1 TD.
- RB Nick Chubb: 15 carries, 106 yards (7.1 YPC). 1 catch, 11 yards (1 target).
- RB Kareem Hunt: 9 carries, 28 yards (3.1 YPC). 2 catches, 40 yards (3 targets).
- WR Odell Beckham: 2 catches, 39 yards (5 targets).
- WR Jarvis Landry: 4 catches, 76 yards (7 targets).
- TE David Njoku: 1 catch, 4 yards (3 targets).
- DT Larry Ogunjobi: 9 combined tackles, 0.5 sack.
- CB Denzel Ward: 5 combined tackles, 1 pick six.