CINCINNATI (AP) — Joe Burrow did enough offensively, and the Bengals’ defense stepped up to end the Browns’ recent domination of the Battle of Ohio.
Burrow shook off a sloppy start to throw two touchdown passes and Cincinnati beat Cleveland 23-10 on Sunday, ending a five-game skid in the rivalry.
“A team win, team ugly win, but we got it done,” Burrow said.
Cincinnati bottled up Browns running back Nick Chubb, picked off Deshaun Watson and stopped the Browns on three fourth-down plays.
“The defense played unbelievable and that really ended up being the deciding factor in the game,” Burrow said. “And so that’s kind of showing the kind of team we’re becoming — we’re able to win in a lot of different ways. You’ve seen it over the last couple of weeks on the defensive end and the offensive end and the kicking game. We’re just a complete team right now.”
The Bengals (9-4) have won five straight and nine of 11. They remained tied for the AFC North lead with Baltimore, which beat Pittsburgh 16-14. Burrow picked up his first win in five starts against the Browns (5-8), whose playoff hopes are now all but nonexistent.
Watson was sharper than in his debut with the team last week and threw his first touchdown pass in 707 days, a 13-yarder to David Njoku in the third quarter.
But Watson also threw a fourth-quarter interception and couldn’t hook up with Donovan Peoples-Jones on a late fourth-and-goal from the 6 that would have made it a one-score game. He turned the ball over downs again on the Browns’ last drive when he threw incomplete to Amari Cooper.
Watson finished 26 of 42 for 276 yards, and his touchdown pass was the only time the Browns found the end zone.
“The game is going to continue to speed up,” Watson said. “Each week is going to get better. Today was another learning lesson. Just need to continue to improve. The progress is always taking one step forward. The biggest ultimate goal is to get the W.”
Burrow was 9 for 21 for 110 yards in the first half, including a 15-yard TD to Ja’Marr Chase. In the third quarter, Burrow found Trenton Irwin for an easy 45-yard scoring pass when the Browns bit on a flea-flicker.
Burrow was largely reliant on Chase after his other top receivers, Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins, left the game with injuries. Chase had 10 receptions for 119 yards in his second game back since missing a month with a hip fracture.
The Bengals quarterback finished 18 for 33 for 239 yards and threw a fourth-quarter interception. Joe Mixon, who missed the last two games with a concussion, rushed for 96 yards, including a 40-yard breakaway on a drive that led to a Cincinnati field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter.
“In that first quarter, I wasn’t playing very well, I was missing throws,” Burrow said. “I settled in there in the second half of the second quarter, and from there we really moved the ball really well. The run game was good to us. Ja’Marr was incredible like he always is.”
Watson was terrible last week in a win at Houston, his first game since serving an 11-game suspension for allegations of sexual misconduct by two dozen women. His performance was promising at the outset on Sunday. He completed passes of 18, 13 and 3 yards on the Browns’ first drive, but it stalled. Then, on fourth-and-1 from the Bengals 25, backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett entered the game and overthrew Peoples-Jones in the end zone.
The Bengals’ first touchdown was aided by Browns mistakes. First, Cleveland was called for roughing the punter to extend the drive. Two more Cleveland penalties helped move the Bengals to the Browns 15, and Chase turned around in double coverage and grabbed a pass for a touchdown.
Another Browns drive stalled when DJ Reader tipped Watson’s third-down pass, and Cade York came on for a 26-yard field goal.
The Bengals made it 13-3 in the closing seconds of the half when Samaje Perine bounced off the pile and around right end for a 6-yard score to cap a drive extended by off-setting holding calls. A sack on third-and-10 was negated by the penalties, and Burrow found Trent Taylor for 34 yards on the next play to move the chains.
YOU CAN’T DO THAT
The Browns were penalized nine times for 98 yards, among their many problems.
“You’ve got to score more than 10 points, too many penalties and ones that were very, very costly,” coach Kevin Stefanski said, “And then just in the run game, couldn’t get it going.”
Browns: LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah said he suffered a leg injury that will require an MRI.
Bengals: Boyd suffered a dislocated finger on his right hand early in the game and was later ruled out. … Higgins left in the second quarter with a right hamstring injury. … LB Clay Johnston left in the second half to be evaluated for a head injury.
Browns: Host Baltimore on Saturday.
Bengals: At Tampa Bay next Sunday.
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