After watching the Bengals build a 10-0 lead at the end of the 1st Qtr., the Browns gained momentum back before halftime by establishing a 14-13 halftime lead.
The Browns would tack on a FG in the 3rd Qtr., and the score would remain that way until there was less than 6 minutes to go in the 4th Qtr., when Cincinnati’s back-up QB, Bruce Gradkowski, hit rookie WR, A.J. Green, for a 41-yard score that gave the Bengals a 20-17 lead late in the game.
Cincinnati would regain possession of the ball right before the 2:00 warning in the 4th Quarter. Cedric Benson finished off the Browns with a 39-yard scamper to the end zone for his first TD of the game.
Final Score: Bengals 27 – Browns 20
The Pat Shurmur era got off to a rough start against the Bengals. In the 1st Qtr. alone, the Browns new head coached watched his team manage 6 penalties and come-up with just 3 yards of total offense.
Cincinnati, however, took advantage of great field position on their first two drives, and rookie QB, Andy Dalton, surprised a few critics as he led the Bengals to a 10-0 1st Qtr. lead.
After the previous three kickoffs sailed out the end zone, Browns return-man, Joshua Cribbs, decided to finally bring one out. Cribbs’ return gave the Browns excellent field position, setting the offense up on the Cincinnati 42-yard line.
McCoy cut the Bengals lead to 13-7, after a 34-yard touchdown pass to TE Ben Watson.
With momentum clearly in their favor, the Browns defense forced Cincinnati into yet another punting situation.
McCoy avoided pressure from Bengals LB, Thomas Howard, and hit WR Mohammed Massaquoi for a 56-yard pass completion to that spotted the ball inside the Bengals 5-yard line. Two plays later, McCoy made his first connection with TE Evan Moore for a 2-yard score that gave the Browns a 14-13 lead over the Bengals.
After scoring on a 20-yard FG by K, Phil Dawson, the Browns took a 17-13 lead into the 4th and final Qtr. From there, it was all Bengals.
With 4:28 remaining in the game, Gradkowski hit rookie WR, A.J. Green, on a sneak play up the sidelines for a 41-yard catch and score.
The Bengals would turn to their defense to stop the Browns passing attack, and that they did. Bengals DE, Carlos Dunlap, harassed McCoy on their final (meaningful) possession, forcing the Browns to punt with just over 2:00 remaining in the game.
Needing a stop for any hope of a comeback on 3rd & 4 with less than 2:00 in the game, the Browns D failed. Bengals RB, Cedric Benson, scampered 39-yards off the right side of the o-line to pay dirt, providing the final score of 27-17 over the Browns.
Prior to injuring his wrist, Bengals rookie QB, Andy Dalton, was 10-15 81 yards 1 TD. Gradkowski finished the game 5/12 92 yards 1 TD in relief of Dalton.
McCoy looked good at times during the game, but seemed to falter when the team needed him most. He finished the game with solid numbers, going 19/40 213 yards 2 TDs and 1 fumble.
The Browns run defense looked solid all game prior to Benson’s 39-yard score. Benson finished the game with 121 yards on 25 carries and 1 TD.
Peyton Hillis finished with 57 yards on 17 carries, but failed to find the end zone. Montario Hardesty saw the first meaningful action of his career on Sunday, and finished with 18 yards on 5 carries.
Tight Ends ruled the passing game today. Bengals TE, Jermaine Gresham, had a nice day, finishing with 58-yards on 6 catches and 1 TD. Both Browns TEs had solid statistical games. Watson saw 3 catches for 45 yards and 1 TD, while Moore contributed with 3 catches for 35 yards and 1 TD.
Bengals rookie WR, A.J. Green, caught his first pass and touchdown as a pro on the same play and finished the game with the lone reception for 41-yards and the 1 TD. Browns WR, Mohammed Massaquoi, was a pleasant surprise for Browns fans. MoMass, who missed the entire preseason with a foot injury, pitched-in with 3 catches for 77-yards, including a 56-yard catch that set-up a 2-yard TD a few plays later.
The Cleveland Browns (0-1) travel to Indianapolis next week to take on the Manning-less Colts (0-1), who were defeated by the Houston Texans today, 34-7.
Cincinnati (1-0) will face it’s second-straight road game to start the 2011 NFL season. They’ll travel to Denver to take on the Broncos. Denver plays the Oakland Raiders tomorrow night.
In another opening day AFC North showdown, the Baltimore Ravens took the Pittsburgh Steelers to the woodshed. The Ravens forced the Steelers into 7 turnovers in a 35-7 romp over the divisional rival.
The Ravens are now tied with the Bengals atop the AFC North at 0-1, while the Steelers and Browns (0-1) hold down the bottom half of the standings.