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BROWNIES & FROWNIES: Bengals no match for New Browns as they lose 24-3

The opening contest against a divisional opponent becomes a pivotal game right off

Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

To open the 2023 season, the Browns had to face their in-division foe with the hopes of getting a playoff berth this year. The game was the 100th meeting between the two Ohio NFL franchises.

There is no doubt that the AFC North Division runs straight along I-75 through the heart of Cincinnati. Before the season began, the AFC Royalty was mainly the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, and the Cincinnati Bengals. All of that changed in a single weekend as the Chiefs lost 21-20 and the Browns slaughtered the Bengals 24-3.

Cleveland has a much different roster this year with an emphasis on the defensive. Cincy is a very good passing team with their experienced receiver corps, but the Browns have ample defensive backs to counter. But the story of the game was how Cleveland’s defense stymied the high-flying offense of the Bengals who gained just 142 yards of total offense.

So who played well for the Browns? Who didn’t?


Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

K Dustin Hopkins - Right out of the gate we have to celebrate having a dependable kicker. Hopkins had a perfect day nailing all three field goal attempts of 42, 34, and 43 yards. His three points with 11:29 left in the game put the Browns up 16-3 which was crucial. He was also 1-1 on PATs. Two of his kickoffs were minus-2 which were run back, but his other kickoffs were in the minus-6 area.

RB Nick Chubb - The bell-cow for the Browns was his usual pounding self against the Cincinnati defense. He had two big runs in the first quarter which set up a field goal. Facing a third-and-seven midway in the second quarter, Chubb hit the middle hole and appeared to be stopped, yet plowed for the first down to keep the chains moving. In stanza #3, it was Chubb who burst to his right and then straight up the field for a 10-yard gain that set up yet another field goal. Finished with 18 carries for 106 yards and four catches for an additional 21 yards.

Defense stopping third down conversions - All game long Bengals QB Joe Burrow had problems converting third down plays to keep drives alive. In the first half, Cincy was just 1-7 and 3-14 for the game with one third down conversion being a pass interference call.

S Grant Delpit - The man was seemingly all over the field today. Late in the first quarter, it seemed that the Bengals were going to convert a third-and-seven when Delpit came flying out of center field and decked WR Tyler Boyd who was short. Needing eight yards on another third down situation with six ticks left in Quarter 3, Burrow hit tight end Irv Smith who is much bigger than Delpit, yet the Browns safety was able to bring him down just short. On a third-and-four with 8:21 left in the contest, RB Chris Evans caught a short pass in the left flats and met Delpit for a one-yard loss. On the next possession, Cincinnati began massive substitutions. Delpit led all tacklers with eight.

Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

DE Za’Darius Smith - The talented defender was in the offensive backfield constantly. Several plays in the first half he was just inches from a sack. In the third quarter, his pass rush on first down forced Burrow to throw the ball into the turf after being hassled out of the pocket. Earlier in Quarter #2, it was ZDS who placed pressure on Burrow where he had to throw it away although his receiver was still trying to run a good route. Basically, the new guy is a menace and had a productive day.

OG Wyatt Teller - Had several pulling plays where he leveled his defender that gained good yardage. When his tackle Jack Conklin left the game with an injury, Teller was now the babysitter for the rookie and as the game progressed the two melded well. On QB Deshaun Watson’s touchdown run, it was Teller who had pulled and laid the block on Bengals DE Trey Hendrickson to spring Watson. With 14:09 left in the game, Teller pulled once again and kicked his man out for the big Jerome Ford 17-yard run which led to a field goal.

Defensive secondary - As a unit, this group was amazing. Except for the one slight jersey pull for a pass interference call, there were plays made all day long. M.J. Emerson had several batted balls while Denzel Ward was like glue to whichever man he was assigned. Greg Newsome had a tackling day and Rodney McLeod was magnificent in coverage deep. The top four tacklers for the game were all from this group. Can Browns fans expect no more wide-ass open receivers?

New York Jets v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Punt and kickoff coverage - The Bengals were stymied all game as tacklers Charley Hughlett, Matthew Adams, D’Anthony Bell, Cam Mitchell, Mohamoud Diabate, and Mike Ford were all over the return man. Cincy had a 22.5 yards per kickoff average and an 8.0 yards per punt return average. Ouch.

DC Jim Schwartz - Is this what Browns’ fans can expect all season? Wowsers. The mighty offense of the Bengals was nothing more than a kitty cat as they had just 98 first-half yards. The overall energy of this group is amazing. Rarely did Schwartz send a fifth or sixth defender on passing downs, and the front four was in the backfield repeatedly. The crown jewel today was the defensive secondary which played well in man coverage.


OT Jedrick Wills - The tackle could not find a solution to keep out his man Hendrickson who often used a quick lean where Wills would only engage for so long and then let him man go. In the second quarter, it was Hendrickson who had beaten Wills and then landed on RT Jack Conklin who went out with a knee injury. Early in the third quarter, Hendrickson embarrassed Wills with a quick first step then sacked Watson on a third-and-11. He has to find a way to remain on his linear track and stop the practice of oversetting.

Cleveland Browns v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

Offense third down conversions - The game just plugged along with little scoring. The reason was that neither offensive unit could convert third downs. The Browns were 2-8 in the first half with five being seven yards or greater. They finished going 2-11.

Missed tackles - It is one thing to attempt to make a tackle and get knocked off, it’s another to completely whiff. Emerson, Ward, Ronnie Hickman, Maurice Hurst, and Rodney McLeod all had clean shots and missed.

Lack of receiver play - The New Browns were supposed to be this Air Raid offense, yet no receiver did much of anything all game. The passing game was very muted at best. Elijah Moore led all receivers with just three catches for 43 yards, but no receiver had over four receptions. In all, nine receivers/tight ends were thrown balls as seven recorded catches. A total of 154 yards? Eesh....

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QB Deshaun Watson - Worked the offense well and made several key scrambles. The touchdown run was available after Teller chipped his man out wide and WR Amari Cooper engaged CB Cam Taylor-Britt completely out of harm’s way. The interception was tipped into the waiting arms of a defender. His touchdown pass was a strike.

Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

But the amount of underthrown balls in this game is alarming. Early in the second quarter, WR Marquise Goodwin was standing alone waiting for the ball when it skipped to him. Six minutes later Watson short-armed a pass to DPJ who would have converted the third-and-three easily. In the same drive, Cooper was wide open at the 40 to which Watson threw down low with zero chance of being caught. Five passes in all were tossed short with only minimal pressure applied by the defense right before Watson threw. Went 16-29 for 154 yards passing.

RB Jerome Ford - The fumble was inexcusable as the Browns had a good drive wasted. Ford had several good runs including one for 17 yards that was electric and was a valuable blocker in passing situations. Protect the ball, protect your job.

DT Dalvin Tomlinson - Had good pressure for most of the game. It proves talent in the middle will solve teams running up the gut against you.

OT Dawand Jones - Was forced into the starting lineup and did not screw up. His forte is to simply engage his man and ride him deep to the outside of the pocket. Bengals DE Sam Hubbard had six tackles before Jones entered the game and finished with eight tackles. Not once did the TV announcers mention his name which is a very good thing.

Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

DE Myles Garrett - Had good pressure and missed several sack opportunities in the first half. But his fourth-and-four sack of Burrow at Cincinnati’s own 31-yard line is the stuff of legends. Garrett beat OT Jonah Williams with a nifty inside move that baffled the tackle. Garrett then had a direct path towards Burrow who was still thinking about his new contract. The result was a 13-yard loss to the Browns 18-yard line. The home crowd went ballistic. After Cleveland scored a touchdown following the coach’s gaffe, the Bengals just gave up despite having over nine minutes left in the game.