The Cincinnati Bengals entered last Thursday night’s game against the Cleveland Browns a woeful 18-40 in prime-time games.
Well, they’re now 18-41 – and they looked awful in the process.
Andy Dalton threw an interception on the Bengals’ first possession, Ben Tate scored on a 4-yard touchdown run five plays later and the Browns were in business. They led 17-3 at halftime, held the Bengals scoreless in the second half, forced four turnovers and allowed just 165 total yards in a 24-3 win.
“Man, the game plan was simple,” Browns linebacker Craig Robertson said on The MoJo Show. “It was to stop the run and to easily, easily just make sure our DBs could take care of all their receivers and tight ends. We had a simple game plan coming in off a short week. Our coaches did a great job putting the game plan together.”
Indeed, the Browns’ defense made Dalton look like a rookie – and a bad one, at that. Dalton finished 10-of-33 for 86 yards and three interceptions. Yes, you could argue that wind was a factor, but wind didn’t prevent Brian Hoyer from going 15-of-23 for 198 yards.
“Well, we know Andy can be a streaky player,” Robertson said. “He can make all the throws when he has his confidence, but sometimes he gets a little rattled and we can take over with some turnovers. We just kept the pressure on as a whole defense all night.”
The Browns (6-3) are now in first place in the AFC North – ahead of Cincinnati (5-3-1), Pittsburgh (6-4) and Baltimore (6-4). It is their best start in 20 years, and first-year head coach Mike Pettine has a lot to do with it.
“Attitude, man,” said Robertson, explaining Pettine’s impact on the team. “That’s probably the biggest thing. Just all the way there in camp, it was just a nosebleed attitude week in and week out. That’s the attitude we have right now.”
Cleveland has won three straight and five of six, and yet, that hasn’t stopped division rivals – such as Steelers safety Mike Mitchell and Bengals running back Jeremy Hill – from taking shots at the Browns, saying they’re not nearly as good as their record indicates.
The Browns, well, they couldn’t care less what Mitchell and Hill think, especially since they’ve beaten Pittsburgh and Cincinnati by 21 points each in the last month or so.
It’s not for us to (worry about what they say or think),” Robertson said. “All that matters is what the guys in the locker room think. That’s all we care about.”
What the Browns think is they have a pretty good quarterback in Hoyer, who is 9-3 as a starter. They also think they have a pretty capable backup in Johnny Manziel.
“We know that they’re both real, real good players,” Robertson said. “But as a player, that’s not your job to (worry about who’s starting). The coach made the decision and we (supported whoever they picked).”
The Browns host Houston (4-5) this Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. It’s a very winnable game, but Cleveland isn’t going to let its recent success influence its focus or preparation.
“We’re still week to week, one-game seasons,” Robertson said. “There’s no point to look forward and change what we’ve been doing, so we just stay week-to-week and try to beat our opponent every week.”