- Jay Morrison Staff Writer
The Battle of Ohio resulted in yet another rout on Lake Erie as the Cincinnati Bengals continued their dominance of the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium with a 31-7 rout for their first win of the season.
In their last four trips to Cleveland, the Bengals have outscored the Browns 121-20.
Cincinnati (1-3) has won six in a row against Cleveland overall for the first time since the series began in 1970. The Browns (0-4) lost for the 19th time in 20 games under coach Hue Jackson.
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton threw four touchdown passes and directed five consecutive scoring drives after a sluggish first quarter. Dalton hit A.J. Green for a 7-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the second quarter as part of a streak of 16 consecutive completions. It was the first time a Bengals quarterback had completed at least 16 passes in a row since Ken Anderson had 20 in playoff game against the New York Jets on Jan. 2, 1983.
“We wanted to do whatever we could to get a win,” Dalton said. “I felt like we got into a good rhythm and moved the ball well and the defense played great. It was a good team win. We needed it.”
Dalton also threw touchdown passes of 3 yards to tight end Tyler Kroft and 61 yards to running back Giovani Bernard as part of a 21-point second quarter. Kroft caught his second touchdown in the third quarter on a leaping 16-yard grab, and Randy Bullock added a 41-yard field goal.
Kroft finished with career highs in catches (six), yards and touchdowns (68) as Dalton posted a near-perfect passer rating of 146.0, completing 25 of 30 passes for 286 yards and the four touchdowns. It was his first four-touchdown game since Dec. 22, 2013, against Minnesota.
What made Dalton’s performance even more impressive is the Bengals had no semblance of a running game, gaining 86 yards on 30 carries. Dalton led the team with 29 yards on four carries.
Joe Mixon carried 17 times for 29 yards, while Jeremy Hill rushed six times for 16 yards.
The Bengals defense held Cleveland to 215 yards, with 63 of them coming on the final drive that ended with Duke Johnson scoring on a 1-yard plunge with 1:54 remaining to avoid the shutout.
Browns rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer completed 16 of 34 passes for 118 yards and an interception before turning things over to Kevin Hogan in the fourth quarter.
“We got beat pretty soundly in every phase,” Jackson said. ” … The disappointing part is that was as bad as we have played all year — caught us at a bad time and we couldn’t come out of it.”
The final scoring drive was the deepest penetration by the Cleveland offense since the Browns reached the Bengals 17 in the second quarter. But then Bengals linebacker Nick Vigil recorded the first sack of his career, and two plays later safety Clayton Fejedelem grabbed his first career interception when a pass bounced off the hands of Cleveland receiver Kenny Britt at the Bengals 12-yard line.
Dalton drove the team 88 yards for a 14-0 lead, and the Browns only crossed midfield twice after that, both in the fourth quarter after the game was long since decided.