Cincinnati had won the last seven meetings in the series, but a slow start was costly Sunday, and the game played out just as Randall had predicted to give the Bengals their fifth loss in six games.
Randall played his part. With the Browns leading 21-0 in the second quarter, he intercepted a deep pass from Dalton intended for Cody Core, walked out of bounds with the ball and handed it to former Cleveland coach Hue Jackson, who is now a special assistant to Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. Jackson patted Randall on the helmet, and Randall ran about 55 yards down the field to celebrate his play in front of fans behind the end zone.
“That hurts as a whole team and for the receivers for (him) to say it’s only one guy that can win this game for us,” Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd said. “It’s disrespectful to me, but I didn’t let that get under my skin.”
As if the Bengals hadn’t already been punched in the collective gut enough, Cleveland took advantage of the short field and scored on its fourth straight possession for a 28-0 lead with 6:44 left in the second quarter. Rookie Nick Chubb capped it off with a 14-yard catch for Baker Mayfield’s third touchdown pass of the day.
Mayfield, the Browns rookie quarterback, had diced up the Bengals defense throughout the first half, seemingly moving the offense with ease. He guided Cleveland 78 yards on 10 plays the first drive to get on the board with Chubb’s 1-yard carry, and Mayfield finished the half with 245 yards and three touchdowns on 17-of-22 passing. He finished with 258 yards passing and four touchdowns with just four pass attemps in the second half.
“He did a good job getting out of the pocket,” Bengals linebacker Vinny Rey said. “When you get out of the pocket, you extend the play and now we’re looking for our guy, whoever is in our zone, or if it’s man, we’re looking for our man. He was able to make completions while getting out of the pocket and we can’t let him out of the pocket.”
Meanwhile, Cincinnati’s offense had no answers without Green, who missed his third straight game because of a toe injury.
Browns defensive end Myles Garrett blocked Randy Bullock’s 54-yard field goal attempt with 3:01 left in the first quarter on the Bengals’ first drive, and Cincinnati only crossed into Cleveland territory once more before halftime, finally getting on the board its final possession on John Ross’ 2-yard grab.
After the blocked field goal, the Browns moved 56 yards on four plays to extend their lead to 14-0 on Antonio Calloway’s 13-yard catch. Cincinnati punted the next possession and backed the Browns up to their own 4-yard line, but that didn’t even stop them. Less than six minutes later, Cleveland was back in the end zone on David Njoku’s 6-yard haul.
Coming out of halftime and trailing 28-7, the Bengals got the ball first, but Dalton was backed into a first-and-20 when Price sailed the snap over his head. Dalton attempted to slide on the ball but couldn’t get a hold of it, and Cleveland defensive lineman Emmanuel Ogbah recovered. Dalton immediately headed for the locker room and eventually was declared out.
Lewis said the injury doesn’t appear to be season-ending, but Dalton needed more testing. Cincinnati also lost Tony McRae to a concussion. He had to be taken out on a stretcher and was sent to the hospital for evaluation but signaled thumbs up on his way off the field.
Cleveland extended its lead on Mayfield’s fourth touchdown pass of the day, this time to Darren Fells, and the Bengals finally played some defense. The Browns were forced to punt on their next three possessions, while Driskel led Cincinnati down for two scores to make it a 35-20 game with 7:57 left. Driskel connected with Tyler Boyd for a 28-yard touchdown in the third quarter and added a two-yard keeper for the final points as the Bengals couldn’t convert two fourth downs at the end of the game.
Dalton finished with 100 yards passing and one touchdown, while Driskel completed 5 of 7 passes for 52 yards. Chubb had 84 yards on 28 carries for the Browns.