Dalton’s 4 TDs lead Bengals past Browns
CLEVELAND — After failing to hold a two-touchdown lead at halftime last week at Green Bay, the Cincinnati Bengals made sure they finished the job this time.
Quarterback Andy Dalton threw four touchdown passes Sunday to lead the Bengals to a convincing 31-7 victory over the Cleveland Browns for their first win of the season.
The pounding delivered by the Bengals was complete from beginning to end, unlike last week against the Packers, who railed from a 21-7 halftime deficit to beat the Bengals 27-24.
In Sunday’s win over Cleveland, Cincinnati had 349 yards of offense by the end of the third quarter and possessed the ball 35:02 compared to 24:58 for the Browns.
“I’m proud of how the guys fought today,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said. “There was great preparation to come out and play a good football game. All you can do is win one at a time. Now we have to get ready for the Bills.”
The Browns are 0-4 for the season and 1-22 since the 13th game of 2015. The Bengals have beaten them six straight times — four straight times in Cleveland.
“The only people that can fix this are the people in that room,” Browns head coach Hue Jackson said. “Cincinnati played well and we didn’t. That was as bad as we’ve played all year. They caught us at a bad time and we couldn’t get out of it. We got beat soundly in every phase.
“I’m not going to let this team go backward. We did today. I don’t like to be 0-4. I can’t say I’m shocked. We earned the record.”
Sloppiness early reflected the 0-3 records both teams took into the game, but it did not take long for the Bengals to assert their dominance in the first round of the Battle of Ohio.
The Browns got the first break when defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah strip-sacked Dalton on Cincinnati’s first offensive series. Ogbah also recovered the fumble at the Cincinnati 30. After three plays netted zero yards, rookie kicker Zane Gonzalez missed a 48-yard field-goal attempt wide left.
Two errors by the Browns helped the Bengals to their first two touchdowns and a 14-0 lead with 2:33 remaining in the first half.
The Browns had the ball, first-and-10, on their 24 after starting the series on the Cleveland 6 when a snap from center JC Tretter sailed over quarterback DeShone Kizer’s head in the shotgun. Kizer covered the ball 14 yards behind the line of scrimmage.
The Browns had to punt without making a first down. Adam Jones returned the punt 40 yards to the Browns 35.
Dalton capped the short march to the end zone with a 7-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver A.J. Green in the back of the end zone on the first play of the second quarter.
The touchdown was the 51st of Green’s career, leaving him two behind Isaac Curtis for third place on the Bengals’ list for career receiving touchdowns. Chad Johnson has the record with 66.
The Bengals added two more touchdowns before halftime, both on drives starting inside the Cincinnati 20. One started on the Bengals 12 after cornerback William Jackson made an interception that bounced off the hands of wide receiver Kenny Britt. The takeaway was converted into a 3-yard touchdown pass from Dalton to tight end Tyler Kroft.
“It’s a drive killer and a momentum killer for our team,” Britt said. “That was clearly on me. The ball came on me faster than I thought it would and that is something I should have.”
Cincinnati moved ahead 21-0 with 47 seconds left in the second quarter on a screen pass from Dalton to running back Giovani Bernard that turned into 61-yard scoring play.
The Bengals continued to pull away in the third quarter. Randy Bullock kicked a 41-yard field goal on the first drive of the second half. Kroft caught his second touchdown pass of the day on a 16-yard connection from Dalton to cap an 83-yard drive.
“As people go down, we always preach next man up has to come up and make a play,” said Kroft, who started at tight end in place of injured Tyler Eifert. “With any injuries across this team, we’ve got guys and depth at each position.
“This is a good confidence booster going into Buffalo next week. It just shows when we put four quarters together, this is what we can do as a team.”
The Browns avoided the shutout when running back Duke Johnson scored from the 1 with 1:54 to play.
NOTES: TE Tyler Kroft started for the Bengals in place of injured Tyler Eifert (back) and caught six passes for 68 yards with two touchdowns. ... LB Vontaze Burfict returned from a three-game suspension to start for the Bengals and drew a roughing the passer penalty in the third quarter. ... Browns backup LB Dominique Alexander suffered a knee injury covering the first punt of the game and did not return. ... DE Myles Garrett, the No. 1 overall draft pick, hoped to make his debut in this game, but the Browns decided to hold him out one more week while he recovers from a sprained ankle.