CINCINNATI — The Bengals keep finding ways to win.
Playing without three of its key weapons, Cincinnati knocked off Cleveland 23-10 on Sunday at Paycor Stadium to keep its winning streak going at five games — and improve to 9-4 on the season.
The Bengals played without wide receivers Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd and tight end Hayden Hurst, but still managed to defeat the Browns for the first time since 2019.
“Well, we’re still 1-4 against them,” Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow said about the NFL’s Ohio rivalry. “We’ve got some work to do, but today was a good start.”
Burrow completed 18 of 33 passes for 239 yards on Sunday with two touchdowns and one pick.
Joe Mixon returned from a two-game absence due to a concussion, and rushed for 96 yards on 14 carries — while wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase hauled in 10 catches for 119 yards with one TD.
But the Cincinnati defense held Browns hard-nosed running back Nick Chubb to only 34 yards on 14 carries.
“It was awesome,” Cincinnati head coach Zac Taylor said about his defense keeping Chubb at bay. “I think more importantly in the second half, it was maybe six yards. That’s the information I have. That’s just entire team defense. I’m really proud of the defense today. They gave us our best chance to win it, and then the offense found a way to overcome that adversity and score some points. But it really started with the defense.”
After a slow start, Cincinnati scored on four of five possessions in the middle of the game.
They found the end zone on three consecutive drives in the second and third quarters.
With 9:43 to go in the second period, Burrow threaded the needle to find Chase — who made an acrobatic catch on a slant pattern for a 15-yard scoring strike.
“I’m always impressed by what Ja’Marr is able to do with the ball in his hands,” Taylor said. “If you could just find a way to get him the ball, he is going to be productive and that’s what he wants to do.”
That TD capped a nine-play, 85-yard drive that featured three Browns penalties and a Burrow scramble for eight yards for a first down at the 15-yard line.
Defensive lineman D.J. Reader harassed Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson for most of the game, and batted down a third-down pass to force a Cleveland field goal toward the end of the second quarter.
Burrow said that Reader is playing at a Pro Bowl level.
“He’s always around the ball and always penetrating,” he said. “He’s always in the backfield making plays. He’s one of the best defensive tackles in the league and for some reason, not really anybody knows about him.”
The Bengals took a 13-3 lead into the break when Samaje Perine bolted into the end zone from six yards out.
Cincinnati extended the lead to 20-3 when it pulled off a flea-flicker — when Mixon took the handoff and flipped back to Burrow, who then found Trenton Irwin wide open for a 45-yard TD.
“That just goes to show that Trenton Irwin studies his stuff and knows every position,” Burrow said. “He’s going to get thrown in there if somebody goes down, so credit him. We were running the ball well at that point, that’s why it ended up working.”
That play is usually designed for Higgins, who was out with a hamstring injury, but Irwin stepped up and ran the play for the first time.
“Joe put that thing in perfect for me,” Irwin said. “My job was to run there and go up and get it. I did my job and he put it perfect.”
The Bengals remained tied for first place in the AFC North with the Baltimore Ravens (9-4), and travel to Tampa Bay on Sunday to face the Buccaneers (6-7) at 4:25 p.m.