Bengals feel revived with 31-17 win over Browns


CINCINNATI (AP) — Andy Dalton threw it high and far, and watched the ball come down in a scrum of orange and white jerseys.

The ball got tipped around, and Dalton heard the crowd erupt.

All he knew was that the Bengals had scored an improbable touchdown.

“I didn’t even know who caught it,” Dalton said. “When I saw everybody was high-fiving A.J., I knew who it was then.”

He should have guessed. Green tipped the ball and then grabbed it with his right hand while being pulled down on the final play of the first half for a 48-yard touchdown that highlighted a game full of big plays. Cincinnati’s 31-17 win over the Cleveland Browns helped the Bengals regain their footing in the AFC North.

The Bengals (3-4) are back in the race in the injury-depleted division. No play symbolized their revival more than the one at the end of the first half.

“I beat everybody down there, so I had first dibs on the ball,” Green said. “I tapped it to myself a couple of times.”

The Bengals ran off the field with a sense that the game had turned. The Browns (0-7) couldn’t believe another improbable moment in a season full of them.

“Those are plays that shouldn’t happen,” coach Hue Jackson said.

Another thing that shouldn’t happen: The Browns lost another quarterback. Cody Kessler completed 9 of 11 passes for 82 yards before suffering a concussion on a shovel pass in the second quarter.

Undrafted rookie Kevin Hogan — Cleveland’s sixth quarterback in seven games — completed 12 of 24 for 100 yards with a pair of interceptions.

Hogan ran seven times for a team-high 104 yards, including a 28-yard TD run that was the longest by a quarterback in Browns history.

“I felt very comfortable out there,” Hogan said. “I felt good in the huddle, leading the guys and getting to the right plays.”

Some takeaways from the Bengals’ fourth straight lopsided win in the rivalry:

BENGALS TURNAROUND: It was Cincinnati’s biggest game offensively since the previous time it played Cleveland. The 34 points were the Bengals’ most since a 37-3 win in Cleveland last December. The Bengals piled up 559 yards, their most since 1990. Green had eight catches for 169 yards. Jeremy Hill ran nine times for 168 yards — the most by a Bengal in seven years — including a 74-yard TD run.

“It’s definitely a start for us,” Hill said. “We’re not satisfied, but it’s a start in the right direction.”

DALTON FLAWLESS AGAIN: Dalton had one of the worst games of his career against Cleveland in 2014, when he finished with a minuscule passer rating of 2.0. In his past three games against them, he’s been flawless — 54 of 74 for 762 yards with seven TDs and no interceptions. That translates into a passer rating of 137.3.

BEAT THE COORDINATOR: The Bengals got the better of Jackson, who left to become Cleveland’s head coach after being the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati. Next up is his predecessor, Jay Gruden. The Bengals make their first trip to London to play Gruden’s Washington team.

BROWNS QB WOES: So, now what? Hogan joins Robert Griffin III, Josh McCown, Kessler, Charlie Whitehurst and Terrelle Pryor as Cleveland’s quarterbacks through the first seven games. Jackson said there’s a chance McCown could be available for a home game against the Jets next week despite a sore left shoulder. There’s no telling Kessler’s fate with the concussion.

“These quarterbacks only have so many of these hits in their body, you know?” Jackson said. “Pretty soon, guys don’t get up all the time, and that’s what’s been happening. It’s just been happening way too much, so on we go.”

CLEVELAND’S MISERY: The previous time the Browns were 0-7 was 1999, when they were a first-year expansion team. There’s been only one worse start in franchise history, 0-9 in 1975. This one is quickly turning into one for the record books.

“We definitely didn’t play our hardest today, or the way the Browns should play,” defensive lineman Danny Shelton said.