CLEVELAND — Who Dey Nation fans might be thinking Who Dey-’ja’vu after Sunday’s awful performance to in-state rival Cleveland.
The Bengals’ offense was as dismal as the misty-rainy weather in Cleveland as the Browns stunned Cincinnati 24-3 in Week 1 of the NFL season.
Since 2020, the back-to-back AFC North Division champion Bengals are 1-6 against the Browns.
The Browns (1-0) pounded out 350 total yards compared to only 142 from the high-powered potential of the Bengals (0-1) — and won the first leg of and the 100th Battle of Ohio.
Cleveland dominated every aspect of the game from time of possession (35:50 to 24:10) to red -zone efficiency (67-percent to 0-percent.)
“We just didn’t play well enough today,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said, stating the obvious. “We didn’t handle field position or any other condition in the first half.”
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, fresh off signing the highest contract in NFL history worth $275 million ($219 guaranteed) over the next five years, is 1-5 against the Browns — and 0-4 on the road at Cleveland.
Burrow finished the game with 82 yards in the air, and completed only 14 of 31 attempts with a passer rating of 52.2.
“We just didn’t handle it today,” Burrow said. “It’s one week and not up to our standards. We have 16 more to go.”
The Cleveland defense chased Burrow all over the slippery and wet field all afternoon.
They harassed him, knocked him down six times, and made him hurry up and throw off balance at least seven times.
Perhaps the ONLY bright spot was that Burrow was sacked two times.
That’s a win for this offensive line.
“We just have to keep truckin,” he added, noting that his calf injury didn’t hamper him at all.
Burrow missed several weeks of training camp and all three Bengals preseason games, nursing a strained calf and was cleared to play only last week.
“We had a good week of practice and stuff like this happens,” he said about the loss. “We’ve been here before and will come back stronger.”
Last year, Cincinnati started the season 0-2 — but made a run that took them to the AFC Championship game in Kansas City.
After a loss like Sunday’s, sometimes a coach or player will peer into the darkness to find something positive to build on for the next week.
There was none of that after Cleveland.
“Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t know,” Burrow said with a chuckle. “We just didn’t handle it today.”
Cleveland’s offense clicked despite Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson struggling at times to connect with his targets.
Watson threw for 154 yards and completed 16-of-29 attempts with one TD and one interception, and had a passer rating of 67.3.
Cleveland posted a 10-0 lead at the intermission — after Watson dashed into the end zone from 13 yards out with 22 tics left on the clock.
“He does a great job when you call on him with any of those types of things,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said of his signal-caller. “He has the ability to scramble, the ability to make plays.”
But on the other side, nothing happened — even though Taylor had high hopes.
“We felt like our offense was going to click in the second half,” Taylor added. “I thought we had two good drives to start the second half with good field position and was able to get three points out of one of them.”
Cincinnati kicker Evan McPherson connected on a 42-yard field goal, then missed one from 51 yards about three minutes later.
Cincinnati never posted a serious threat to reach the end zone all afternoon.
Burrow seemed to be out of sync, and had no rhythm with his talented receiving corps.
Ja’Marr Chase, usually explosive on offense and Burrow’s favorite target, had 39 yards receiving —while Tyler Boyd was limited to only 10 yards and Tee Higgins was totally shut out.
A big ZERO.
“Those things tend to happen when the quarterback doesn’t perform in training camp,” Burrow said. “That’s something I would have like to have done. There are no excuses. We just have to do better. They have some talented cornerbacks and a great secondary. Obviously, we were not good enough. I didn’t put the ball in the right places, and we didn’t come out on top today.”
Bengals running back Joe Mixon was the leading rusher for Cincinnati with 56 yards, while his counterpart on the other side — Nick Chubb — churned out 106 for Cleveland.
“I think our defense played well,” Taylor said. “I think they kept us in it in the first half. We just needed to flip some field positions and put us in position to score and we couldn’t do that.”
Basically, the Bengals didn’t do anything right.
They were outplayed, outgained, outscored, out-tackled, and out-anything else you can add.
For the Browns, this was their Super Bowl win.
They have Burrow’s number.
“We had miscommunications here and there and didn’t come out with any points,” Burrow said. “We just have to put this behind us and move on. We’ve been here before and one week doesn’t define this team.”
Cincinnati will host Baltimore on Sunday at The Jungle.