CINCINNATI (AP) — Three touchdown catches on three different routes. Tight end Tyler Eifert got a lot of attention with his latest impressive game.
So did the rest of his team.
Eifert caught three touchdown passes from Andy Dalton on Thursday night, leading the unbeaten Bengals to a 31-10 victory over the Johnny Manziel and the Cleveland Browns that put Cincinnati in totally new territory.
The Bengals are 8-0 for the first time. The eight straight wins are a club record for one season. And they’re in control of the AFC North at the season’s midpoint.
“It seems like every week it’s a first-time ever,” receiver Marvin Jones said. “It’s all good. We’ve got to be 9-0 next and keep it moving.”
For the Browns (2-7), it’s become monotonous. They’ve lost six of seven and can’t even get out of their own way at pivotal times.
“Our mistakes just caught up to us,” coach Mike Pettine said.
Dalton made hardly any of those in a game that had special significance. Last year, he also faced the Browns at Paul Brown Stadium on Thursday night and had his worst game, throwing three interceptions and finishing with a passer rating of 2.0.
This time, he was nearly flawless. Dalton went 21 of 27 for 234 yards with a passer rating of 139.8. When he arrived for his postgame interview, he didn’t even wait for the first question.
“A little different from last year, huh?” Dalton said, his eyes widening.
The quarterback also played lead blocker on Mohamed Sanu’s 25-yard reverse for a touchdown, although the play worked so well that there was nobody for him to touch.
By contrast, Manziel managed only one good half. He led the Browns on a 92-yard touchdown drive — their longest since 2013 — just before halftime, cutting the lead to 14-10. In the second half, the Browns managed only 32 yards and two first downs.
“I’m pretty upset,” said Manziel, who finished 15 of 33 for 168 yards and was sacked three times, all in the fourth quarter. “We had momentum coming into the second half. We just didn’t do enough.”
Five things to take away from the Bengals’ win:
RARE AIR: The Bengals became the 33rd team in NFL history and the 22nd during the Super Bowl era to open 8-0. Their next game is Monday night at home against Houston (3-5), followed by a trip to Arizona (6-2) for a Sunday night game.
“It’s huge to put ourselves in the position we’re in, to stay undefeated,” Dalton said. “Not a lot of teams have been 8-0 before. We understand that. It’s hard to do.”
TOUGH TIGHT END: Eifert finished with five catches for 53 yards and scored on catches of 9, 2 and 19 yards. His nine touchdown catches tie the club record for a tight end and give him the NFL lead in that category.
“It doesn’t matter,” said Eifert, who’s second on the team with 35 catches for 434 yards. “I can’t control how many balls I get thrown or anything like that, but I can put myself in the best position.”
MANZIEL’S DAY: Johnny Football got a rematch against the team that taunted and then tormented him in his NFL debut last December, a 30-0 Bengals win. Coach Marvin Lewis referred to him as “a midget” leading up to the game, and several players mocked his “money-rubbing” gesture while frustrating him. Instead of mocking him this time, they chased him around before ultimately shutting him down in the second half.
“I think it was just inconsistent,” Pettine said of his performance. “I thought he did some good things, but I just thought in the second half, especially after we fell behind, he was trying to make too many big plays instead of just taking completions.”
BAD SERIES: Browns defensive end Randy Starks got a 15-yard penalty for taunting after making a tackle and was offside on Cincinnati’s failed fourth-down pass play during a Bengals touchdown drive that made it 14-3.
BURFICT’S DAY: Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict hurt his left knee — the one that was operated on twice last season — but returned the next series. He also ran into a scoreboard video camera in the back of the end zone while defending one play, knocking it over. The camera operator was examined, returned to his post and finished the game.
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