Run Game Grounds Browns

Browns inability run ball, stop run proves costly. Don Delco was in Cincinnati yesterday and provides a look at the issue.

CINCINNATI — Cincinnati Bengals punter Kevin Huber finally jogged onto the field with four and a half minutes remaining in the game. Until then, he never wandered too far from the sideline heater.

He didn't have to.

The Cleveland Browns' defense could not stop the Bengals offense. Well, to be fair, until Huber's first punt of the game, the Bengals had two offensive possessions that didn't end in points. The first came on their opening possession as they opted to go for a fourth and 10 from the Browns 28-yard-line, and the second time occurred when quarterback Carson Palmer took a knee on his own 8-yard-line to end the first half.

More importantly, the Bengals didn't have to rely on the right arm of Palmer, who entered the game with 15 interceptions in his last nine games. Palmer finished a pedestrian 14-for-23 passing for 209 yards, with no touchdowns or interceptions, but he was a complement to the main story: The Bengals running game. Cincinnati took the ball out of Palmer's hands and placed it into the stomach of Cedric Benson.

Benson finished with 150 yards rushing on 31 carries with a touchdown. His partner, Bernard Scott, added 40 yards on eight carries.

"We won in the trenches," Benson said. "Everything is credited to the offensive line. It was a tremendous job by them. They came out and made a statement with their play. Credit to the scheme as well. We stayed with the run, committed to it, and look at us now."

"It's consistency at the line of scrimmage," Browns coach Eric Mangini said. "Some of these outside plays we were allowing them to get the edge and we had a little too much over compensation. We were too wide and they hit the C gap. It wasn't one defined thing, it was a multiple things we need to fix."

Benson's touchdown run was an 18 yarder with 12:52 left in the second quarter. He was not touched by a single Browns defender.

"We got too wide on the edge there and he hit the C gap," Mangini said. "Look, you shouldn't go 18 yards untouched regardless of the edge being set or not set. It's not just the outside linebacker, there's the safety or corner back there to have other chances to make a play. It shouldn't go for 18 yards."

With Cincinnati's run game humming and its run defense stifling, the Bengals were able to control the game. The Bengals won the time of possession 38:03-21:57 and they were 6-for-13 on third down. Meanwhile, the Browns had 59 yards rushing, collected 14 first downs to Cincinnati's 22 and were 2-for-8 on third down.

Yet the Browns trailed 16-10 with 14:09 left in the game after a 23-yard field goal by Phil Dawson. The Browns defense, up until that point, allowed points on five of Cincinnati's first seven possessions. The defense needed a stop to give the offense a chance to take the lead.

Cincinnati took over on the ensuing possession at its own 20-yard-line. On the first play, Scott ran for seven yards. The next play the Bengals' ability to run the ball allowed a passing play to become the their biggest play.

Palmer faked a hand off, the Browns defense bit and Palmer threw a screen to wide receiver Andre Caldwell. He ran 53 yards to set up another Bengals field goal.

The Browns could not stop the run. The Browns could not run the ball.

The Browns lost the game.

"This time of the year, (run defense) needs to be a strength," Mangini said. "It can't be the other way. That's something that's not going to be any different next week or the week after. We play two teams that can run the football well and two teams that are good against the run. It's going to be the same type of challenge we faced today. Obviously we've got to do a better job than we did here today."

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