On Halloween night, there weren’t many treats to be had, but everyone expecting an exciting contest between division and in-state rivals was certainly tricked.
Behind a suffocating defense, the Cleveland Browns took a small lead and continued to pile on against the Cincinnati Bengals in a 32-13 victory Monday night. In a contest between teams whose sport Halloween-themed colors, the Browns improved to 3-5, and Cincinnati dropped to 4-4, denying the Bengals a share of the AFC North lead through eight weeks.
Setting the tone for the night was Browns defensive end Myles Garrett. A noted Halloween enthusiast, Garrett set up a Stranger Things-themed display in his yard (featuring Joe Burrow) and arrived to the game dressed as the show’s antagonist, Vecna. He served as the main villain for the Bengals and Burrow, who spent the entire game on his back or dodging pressure.
The Browns sacked Burrow five times, hit him a few more, and chased him from the pocket throughout the night. At times, Burrow made it work in his favor, like on touchdown passes to Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins in garbage time. Most of the time, he didn’t, including when Garrett tipped a pass on the game’s first series that resulted in an interception, and when Sione Takitaki had a strip sack in the second quarter. Garrett set the tone and lived up to his status as the villain, picking up two of the five sacks.
Cincinnati managed just 229 total yards for the game, most coming in the fourth quarter with the team down by three-plus scores. It is the fewest yards the Bengals have posted in a game with Burrow at quarterback, and continues the struggles he has had against his in-state rival. Burrow is now 0-4 in his career against Cleveland, and the Bengals have lost eight of their last nine against the Browns.
It wasn’t the most brisk start for the Browns on offense, either, as the team struggled to 11 first-half points. The second half brought some treats for Cleveland, and spelled the end of any hopes for a close battle the rest of the way. The Browns scored three consecutive touchdowns to start the half, taking a 25-0 lead into the fourth quarter.
Nick Chubb (101 rushing yards) added a second score to the one he had in the first half, quarterback Jacoby Brissett (278 passing yards) dove in for six, and Amari Cooper (131 receiving yards) hauled in a Brissett pass for his fifth score of the season. Even Kareem Hunt picked up 72 yards on 14 touches as a runner and receiver, in possibly his final game as a Brown. The game was played one day ahead of the NFL’s trade deadline, and Hunt is one of the most popular names being thrown about as a target for a running back-needy team.
Brissett in particular took in the win, given that his time as the team’s starting quarterback is running thin. After the team’s bye in Week 9, he has three games left to lead the offense before the return of the suspended Deshaun Watson in Week 13. Knocking off the reigning AFC champs in prime time, Brissett kept the game ball after kneeling out the clock. Under his guidance, with assists from his top skill-position players, the Browns reached the end zone on three consecutive drives for the first time this season.
The win also keeps Cleveland alive in the divisional race, two games behind the Ravens and one back of the Bengals.