In one of the few ‘Interstate battles’ in the National Football League, the one in Ohio today was interesting.
A game between two teams who have had their fair share of problems over the years got together at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.
The Cleveland Browns (now 2-2), who just recently traded away their top draft pick from this year’s Entry Draft for a player to be named later, hosted the upstart Cincinnati Bengals (now 2-2), who are coming off impressive victories over the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers; both wins came in Cincy.
After would-be started Brandon Weedon was injured, Brian Hoyer has been called upon twice now, and twice he has delivered.
This time he did it in front of more than 70,000 wild, crazy (and incredibly dedicated) fans at the Dawg Pound.
Hoyer is a local product and apparently he grew up hoping to play pro. Anyways, he has obviously done that, and today he recorded his first win in his first start at home, and threw 2 TD passes as the Browns beat the Bengals by a 17-6 final. Hoyer also has NFL experience with the New England Patriots and Arizona Cardinals.
The Cleveland Browns are now on a 2-game win streak.
In his second start in place of injured Brandon Weeden, Hoyer finished 25 of 38 for 269 yards and no interceptions. He threw a 2-yard TD pass in the first half to tight end Jordan Cameron, who had 10 catches for 91 yards.
But for the second week in a row, he came through in the clutch. Last week, Hoyer threw a 7-yard TD pass to Cameron with 51 seconds left as the Browns rallied to stun theMinnesota Vikings.
“It’s awesome,” Hoyer. “It’s cool to play in front of the hometown crowd in this stadium, where I grew up 15 minutes away from and obviously it’s a good day because the Tribe is winning, too.”
Not long after the Browns knocked off one of their division rivals, the Indians clinched a playoff spot for the first time since 2007.
The Bengals, who have been operating at a higher gear lately (2 wins against 2 teams that usually own them), Andy Dalton had better games in Weeks I and II, and a receiver corps that includes former Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert and WR A.J. Green, didn’t matter what they did today, they were like a stalled engine-all day.
Dalton was picked off by Buster Skrine with 3:43 left, which ended any hope Cincinnati had left for a comeback attempt.
Cleveland was able to limit Cincinnati to 63 yards of rushing this afternoon and Cleveland cornerback Joe Haden had Bengal WR Green in check all day long.
“We didn’t make enough plays,” said Dalton, who finished 23 of 42 for 206 yards.
“I didn’t play well enough. I expect better out of the offense. To not score a touchdown, we’ve got too good of players and too good of a team not to do that. We have all the ability in the world on this team and we didn’t get it done.”
Last week, Hoyer threw three touchdowns and three picks in the win at Minnesota. And although Weeden began throwing this week, he’s not well enough to play. Now, he could be relegated to watching Hoyer for the rest of the season.
Clinging to a 10-6 lead, Hoyer drove the Browns 91 yards in 12 plays for the clinching score.
Hoyer showed gorgeous touch on a 31-yard pass to Cameron to put the Browns at the Cincinnati 24.
Willis McGahee, who promised a “dramatic” improvement in Cleveland’s running game this week, carried three times to the 1 and Hoyer took it from there, throwing his TD to Ogbonnaya.
Even before Ogbonnaya crossed the goal line, Hoyer was overcome with emotion.
The Bengals were out of rhythm from the start on both sides of the ball.
Cincinnati was missing two starters in its secondary — cornerback Leon Hall and safetyReggie Nelson — because of injury and the Bengals’ offense sputtered for all 60 minutes.
Mike Nugent’s two field goals were all the Bengals could muster against Cleveland’s swarming defense. Green had seven catches for 51 mostly meaningless yards as Haden blanketed him all afternoon.
It was a discouraging loss for the Bengals, who overcame four turnovers last week to beat Green Bay and wasted a chance to take early control in the AFC North.
“Today we didn’t play well enough to win. It’s part of what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to keep growing and win,” Bengals Coach Marvin Lewis said.
MANUAL AND THE BILLS ARE NEXT
Things get interesting for the Browns who, as commentators like to put it, “they will have a short week”. On Thursday night, the Browns welcome the upstart Bills to FirstEnergy Stadium, where the ‘Pound will have their first look at Bills rookie QB EJ Manual. Manual caused disappointment today in Baltimore when he led Buffalo to a surprise win over the Super Bowl champion Ravens.