The Cleveland Browns had visions of popping champagne and smoking cigars in the locker room at Paul Brown Stadium today after beating the Bengals and clinching a playoff spot. For at least one week, the champagne will stay on ice and the cigars will stay unlit. Sunday the Bengals built a 19-0 lead at the half and then held off a furious Cleveland rally to stop the Browns 19-14 to move to 6-9 on the season.
Cleveland was hurt all day by the poor play of quarterback Derek Anderson, who threw a season high four interceptions, two of which came on back to back plays that led to two Bengals TD’s late in the first half. A third pick came in the end zone when he tried to force the ball in to tight end Kellen Winslow midway through the third quarter. The fourth also came in Bengals territory, though didn’t hurt them all that much as Carson Palmer threw a pick on the next play and the Browns eventually scored to make it 19-14.
The Browns outgained the Bengals 248 yards to 66 in the second half, but allowed Cincy to run down the clock and get some key third downs on their final offensive drive, that should have put the game away before Kenny Watson fumbled and Cleveland recovered. They took over with 1:48 left, and traveled down to the Bengals 29 before a final incomplete pass with :01 second left intended for Winslow ended the game.
Cincinnati was led by a running attack that didn’t have Rudi Johnson. They used Watson to grind out 130 yards on 30 carries, and overall on the day the team gained 155 yards on 33 carries averaging 4.7 yards per carry. The wind was such that throwing was available, but not easy to do. Palmer went 11-for-21 for 115 yards and one TD and two INT’s. Anderson was 29-for-48 for 250 yards with two TD’s and four picks.
The loss hurts the Browns in a few ways. It clinches the AFC North to the Steelers, meaning they will play a home game in the playoffs January 5th or 6th against likely Jacksonville as the #5 seed. It also leaves the door open for the Titans to sneak in and knock the Browns out all together based on some situations that will have to happen next week. For the Bengals, it’s their sweetest win of what has been a tough 2007.