The Cincinnati Bengals took their first step toward rescuing a lost season Sunday at Cleveland in a battle of winless teams.
The Bengals shook off a sluggish start and dominated the Browns for the final three quarters of a 31-7 triumph at FirstEnergy Stadium.
The win moved Cincinnati to 1-3 with a home game against Buffalo (3-1) looming next Sunday ahead of the bye week.
The Browns fell to 0-4.
Here are five things to know about the game:
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton had one of the best games of his career, completing 25 of 30 passes for 286 yards and four touchdowns. Dalton’s passer rating of 146.0 was the second highest of his career behind the 146.8 he posted in a 37-3 win at Cleveland in 2015.
In fact, three of Dalton’s top four passer ratings have come against the Browns. He had a 139.8 against them in the teams’ first meeting in 2015.
“I feel like I got into a good rhythm and was seeing things well,” Dalton said. “I was able to get the ball to different guys, and felt like I was in a good rhythm today.”
Dalton completed 19 of his first 20 passes, including 16 in a row at point. The only other time a Bengals quarterback completed 16 consecutive passes in a game was Ken Anderson’s 20 in a row in a playoff game against the Jets on Jan. 2, 1983.
With leader Vontaze Burfict back in the middle of the defense, the Bengals came within 114 seconds of recording a shutout.
Cincinnati held Cleveland to 215 total yards, 63 of which came on the Browns’ final drive that ended with Duke Johnson scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run after a pair of pass interference calls in the end zone.
The Bengals limited Cleveland to 45 rushing yards on 17 carries and kept pressure on quarterback DeShone Kizer all day, holding him to 16 of 34 passing for 118 yards with an interception.
“We weren’t going to let them run the ball on us today,” Burfict said. “We wanted Kizer to beat us. We wanted to stop the run and let him beat us. And I think we did a pretty good job.”
Even in helping the Bengals secure their first win of the season, Bengals defensive end Carl Lawson took a loss.
The rookie chipped two teeth when he hit Kizer on a fourth-and-10 play in the fourth quarter.
“The one time I got him down, I ended up missing my teeth, Lawson said. “I guess it’s a give and take. I just know I got around the edge and I thought I got a sack, but they said the ball was going forward. I just remember seeing my teeth in the air for like two seconds. I was like, ‘Oh, crap.’”
Lawson wasn’t wearing his mouthpiece on the play, and as he was talking to the media teammate Kevin Minter chimed in from two lockers away.
“You’ll listen now,” Minter said. “I’ve been telling him since training camp. He looks like a fool now.”
Lawson, who said he was hoping to find an oral surgeon to work on him when the team returned to Cincinnati on Sunday night, shrugged off the accident.
“If they’d got knocked out on any other play, I’d probably have been upset,” Lawson said. “It was a good rush, but I sacrificed my teeth for it.”
Starting for injured tight end Tyler Eifert for the second week in a row, Tyler Kroft set career highs in catches (six), yards (68) and touchdowns (two).
Kroft’s 3-yard touchdown pass from Andy Dalton with 2:33 left in the first half gave the Bengals a 14-0 lead, and his leaping 16-yard scoring grab with 3:37 left in the third put the team ahead 31-0.
“It feels awesome,” Kroft said. “It’s hard to score touchdowns, and it’s hard to win games.”
The only other touchdown Kroft caught in the NFL was during his rookie season in 2015 in a 24-14 win at San Francisco.
Second-year linebacker Nick Vigil had the best game as a pro with a career-high 11 tackles, three of which were for a loss, and his first ever sack.
Vigil came untouched on a blitz and dropped Kizer for a 7-yard loss with the Bengals holding a 7-0 lead in the second quarter.
“Nick Vigil played his ass off today,” Burfict said. “He gets the game ball from me.”
A few plays after Vigil’s sack, second-year safety Clayton Fejedelem recorded his first career interception.
The pick, which came after a Kizer pass bounced off the hands of Browns receiver Kenny Britt at the Cincinnati 12-yard line, thwarted Cleveland’s only red zone possession until the final drive of the game.