Battle for Ohio result was as expected between Bengals, Browns

The Cincinnati Bengals played host to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday in the ‘Battle for Ohio’, but there weren’t too many surprises in a game that saw the final score posted as 30-16 in favor of the Bengals. These two teams continue to limp along in an AFC North division that has been somewhat lackluster throughout the 2017 NFL regular season. The Bengals advanced to 5-6 on the season while the Browns still haven’t put a ‘W’ behind their name on a scoresheet. All in all, there were a few players who had good performances that, in another season, may have given their teams different results when the final seconds clicked off the clock.

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Mixon, Kizer give good showing

Believe it or not, two of the better performers on Sunday were rookies, Joe Mixon and Deshone Kizer. Opponents, yes, but the duo both gave perhaps their best performances of the season. Both are cogs in offenses that rank at the bottom of the league, but neither seemed focused on anything but trying to give their team the win.

Mixon ran for 114 yards on 23 carries, beating his previous career high of 62 (yards) against the Green Bay Packers, and showed the type of promise the Bengals were banking on when they drafted him. He had a 5 yard-per-carry average against a Browns run defense that had only been allowing 3.2 yards-per-carry to their opponents. Mixon, who many thought may run into some personal issues after a historied past, was remarkably humble about his first 100-plus yards rushing game of his pro career.

“I tip my hat off to everybody that trusted in our run game,” Mixon said after the game, praising his coaches, fullback Ryan Hewitt, the receivers and especially the offensive line. He explained that the emphasis has changed from him being required to get too fancy and stick to getting the yards that the opponent offers.

“He’s sticking with the runs,” guard Clint Boling said of Mixon. “He’s running north-south.”

“That’s definitely been our emphasis – running downhill and getting our shoulder pads low and driving our legs,” Mixon agreed. “Our line did a hell of a job. Hopefully, we can get together … keep on feeding them week-by-week. I plan for it to continue to get better from there.”

Kizer received a 91.0 grade from Pro Football Focus after completing 7-0f-11 passes for 181 yards on plays where he threw 10-plus yards downfield (not including the dropped touchdown pass to Corey Coleman). Part of Kizer’s success was improved play by the Browns’ offensive line. One area he attacked relentlessly was the Bengals linebackers as they dropped into coverage. When targeting Vontaze Burfict, Jordan Evans and Nick Vigil, Kizer threw for 145 yards (54 percent of his total yards on the day), and nine completions on 10 targets.

On the day, Kizer completed 18-of-31 passes for 268 yards and added nine rushes for 39 yards and a touchdown. This happened with a concussion protocol check on the sidelines stuck in the middle of his game (he was cleared to return). Although he was far from perfect, the plays he made with his arm and feet showed an improved level of accuracy, vision, and touch than in past games – a hopeful sign for an ailing Browns team.

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Garrett accepts challenge from Jackson

Myles Garrett has been a shining star in the Browns defense as a rookie end and first-overall NFL Draft pick. Browns head coach Hue Jackson had issued a challenge to Garrett to show more and on Sunday, he made a big statement about meeting expectations by recording his fifth sack in six games. Opposite former Texas A&M teammate Cedric Ogbuehi, Garrett showed he can set the edge and still apply pressure to opposing quarterbacks. He had a spectacular sack of Andy Dalton that drew praise across social media.

“I felt like I was close a couple of times…” Garrett said after the game, “but I’ve got to capitalize and make sure I keep on getting there… make sure I finish.”

Garrett missed four games this season with a high-ankle sprain and one due to a concussion, but he looks primed to become a staple in the Browns’ defense.

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What’s next?

The Bengals will spend the week preparing to face the AFC North-leading Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football. After beating the Browns, the Bengals enter Week 13’s game as the underdog with many betting lines giving the Steelers a 7-point favor. Cincinnati has lost to Pittsburgh at home twice in nine meetings at Paul Brown Stadium and after the Steelers had issues against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night, things could get interesting between these two rivals.

The Browns plan on activating wide receiver Josh Gordon ahead of their game with the San Diego Chargers this Sunday. “I plan for him to play and play as much as he can handle,” coach Jackson said. “I think he is a very talented player.” The Chargers handed the Dallas Cowboys a 28-6 loss in Week 12 and are a team on the rise, making the game yet another challenge the Browns must try to overcome.

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