The most recent game in the annual "Battle of Ohio" featured a Browns team on the rise and a Bengals team needing to get back on track after two tough overtime losses in consecutive weeks. As a Bengals fan, I haven't been this excited between a Bengals vs. Browns game in a long time. With the Browns being irrelevant for so long now, it has become a boring rivalry in the NFL. Although the Browns have a 4-6 record and are unlikely to make the playoffs, they are certainly on their way back up. Young stars like Joe Hayden and Josh Gordon have folks in Cleveland excited again.
While it is certainly the less popular way to win, the Bengals paved the way to victory with defense and special teams. 13/27 for 93 yards. 3 TD's and 2 INT's. Those were Dalton's stats Sunday. One look at those numbers and one may assume a Bengals loss, but the defense and special teams took the game over. It isn't often you turn on ESPN and Sportscenter and see the highlights featuring a defense winning the game. In a league becoming increasingly obsessed with the pass, the defense gets overlooked.
The Bengals scored 31 points in the second quarter; the most in any quarter in franchise history. Dalton passed for less than 50 yards. Two blocked punts and a Browns fumble returned for a TD by Vontaze Burfict allowed Cincinnati to take over the game. Without the inspired 2nd quarter performance, this would have been a much closer game that may have resulted in a loss.
This was exactly the kind of win the Bengals needed. With arguably two of our best defensive starters in Geno Atkins and Leon Hall out for the season, the defense stepped up and carried the offense on its back. Vontaze Burfict is certainly stepping up and assuming a leadership role. The Bengals now head into the bye week back on track and hope to get players healthy with a much needed bye.