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Browns, Bengals Winners & Losers: Cleveland loses meaningless contest 31-14 - Brownies & Frownies

Only thing that happened was one team got a loss, while the other recorded a win

Cleveland Browns v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns rarely have a game in which they don’t concern themselves with whether they won the contest or not. This was one of those games.

Cleveland had the fifth seed in the playoffs that begin with the Wild Card round next weekend. And nothing that happened in this game would change it. Their seeding was set.

Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Bengals had the same scenario. They were already eliminated from playoff contention so there was nothing to play for.

With this information, it would make sense that both clubs would not play their starters at all. Why not? For the Browns, getting yet another player hurt and gone for the remainder of the year with the post-season looming was not acceptable. And for Cincy, getting a severe injury which would travel into next season would be just as devasting.

The only real sense for this game was for both teams to sit their starters, and let the backups have the entire game to themselves. Plus, both teams could use the two practice squad players that are allowed to bring up each week. They all would get valuable live game experience, gather game film, and have some meaningful stats.

But the game was played and the win/loss column was the only thing that was affected. In the end, Cleveland rested almost every player on both sides of the ball and eventually lost 31-14. Instead of resting their starters and giving their backups valuable experience, Cincinnati played their starters the complete game against the Browns’ backups.

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


BROWNIES

Browns coaching staff - The best thing that happened in this game was to sit just about every starter in a game that was completely meaningless. The question was asked: Would you rather win and lose several starters to injury for the playoffs, or sit them and know you have no chance to win the game? Except for the punter and long snapper, how many starters actually played snaps? Five? Six? Which is 5-6 too many. If DT Shelby Harris and WR Cedric Tillman’s injuries are minor, consider this game to be a huge victory.

NFL: JAN 07 Browns at Bengals Photo by Jeff Moreland/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

LB Tony Fields - This kid was everywhere and laid wood all game. Okay, he is not a kid. With 12:47 left in the second quarter, Cincinnati RB Chase Brown broke through Cleveland’s line and saw daylight. Fields came out of nowhere and planted the back after he gained 16 yards. Seven minutes later, RB Joe Mixon was caught for a six-yard loss when Fields read run, then chose his gap. On the next play, it was Fields who stuffed TE Tanner Hudson on the third-and-12 play that forced a punt. Led all defenders with 10 total tackles.

WR David Bell - It wasn’t the fact that Bell caught two touchdowns. It was the fact that he was able to maneuver behind the defense where no defender could wreck the play and only he would have access to the throw. Why isn’t Bell getting more targets in games that count? Four targets, four receptions, 68 yards, and two scores. Former Big 10 Receiver of the Year ya know. Just sayin’.....

DE Alex Wright - Had a great pass rush with two tackles for loss. His sack with 5:07 left in the game ended a Cincinnati drive. Had six tackles and one QB hit.

Cleveland Browns v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

S D’Anthony Bell - Does he qualify as one of the starters who played? Had several good hits and saved a touchdown early in the first quarter when Mixon broke free up the middle and had daylight with only Bell to beat. He didn’t. Two plays later, Bell made a terrific interception that he was able to cradle as he went to the ground. In the third quarter, Brown broke free then slanted right with nothing but green in front of him, except Bell reached and brought him down instead at the 46-yard line. Six tackles, one tackle for loss, one batted pass, one pick, one great game.

S Duron Harmon - As the defensive front couldn’t stop the run for most of the game, Harmon and Bell were busy bringing down runners at the third level. Harmon’s delayed blitz sack was a thing of beauty. Finished with seven tackles, two tackles for loss, one QB hit plus the sack.

P Corey Bojorquez - Four kicks inside the 20 including two downed at the one. These four kicks hurt his overall average of 47.9 yards but gave the defense an advantage. Had a long of 58 yards with seven punts overall.


FROWNIES

Bengals RB Joe Mixon - The talented runner had a great game - against every Browns defensive second-teamer. Yet, when he reeled off a good run or scored a touchdown, he acted like he was playing a squad of Pro Bowlers. Hey Mixon! It was the varsity offense against the JV defense. If Mixon gets the AFC Offensive Player of the Week, it needs to come with an asterisk.

Cleveland Browns v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

CB Vincent Gray - Several missed tackles including WR Andrei Iosivas with just over one minute left in the first quarter to the seven-yard line. Five minutes earlier he was stiff-armed by Mixon as the back then was able to get to the two-yard line. He also missed a tackle on a third-and-long in the third quarter that resulted in a first down instead. The practice squad bring-up was overwhelmed all game.

Offensive line - This band of misfits just could not keep out the talented defensive line of the Bengals all game. QB Jeff Driskel was either hurried or pressured or flushed more times than can be counted. Nine QB hits and three sacks were allowed and should have been nine instead.

Pathetic offense - Yes, the Browns played with subs. Their first first down of the game was with 8:41 left before the half. 244 yards of total offense is not enough to call Grandma about. First-half possessions: interception, punt, punt, punt, interception, downs.


Milk Bones – In our defense, we were left unsupervised

QB Jeff Driskel running - Was strong when he took and gained a valuable third-and-one on a sneak. Second leading rusher for the Browns with 33 yards.

Cleveland Browns v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

LB Jordan Kunaszyk - Missed a clear tackle at the four-yard line to which Mixon scored the touchdown instead. Early in the third quarter made a great stop for a one-yard loss by Mixon as he recognized the run and crashed the gap. Three minutes later he had another tackle for loss when he took Brown down for a four-yard loss. Missed another tackle in the fourth quarter that resulted in a first down instead of no gain. Had eight total tackles.

TE Jordan Akins - Two drops with one being wide open at the sticks. Had a tough day blocking as well. He did snare three catches for 24 yards with one being a first down. Three catches for 24 yards for the day.