Browns-Bengals: Report Card

It already seems like a long time ago, but the report card for the Bengals is in, courtesy of NFL Scout...

PASSING OFFENSE: A-minus - Kelly Holcomb recaptured the magic he showed in the playoff loss to Pittsburgh. Against the Steelers, he threw for 429 yards. On Sunday, he threw for 413, and he did it behind a makeshift offensive line featuring a player, right guard Damion Cook, who joined the team only 11 days before and had never played guard in an NFL game. Holcomb's knowledge of the offense was evident as he flicked the ball to several targets. Antonio Bryant had a breakout game with eight catches for 131 yards and two touchdowns. Tight ends Steve Heiden and Aaron Shea combined for 12 catches for 149 yards. Heiden had three touchdown catches. Almost all of the damage came in the second half. Holcomb threw for only 65 yards in the first half and 348 in the second. The only negatives were two interceptions. One was Bryant's fault on a dropped ball. The other, which clinched the game for the Bengals, came when Holcomb assumed Shea would come back to a pass on an out route. But Shea didn't see Deltha O'Neal coming and the cornerback picked off the pass for a touchdown.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D-plus - William Green's stats don't look bad - 15 carries for 75 yards and a touchdown - but they're misleading. Green had a 46-yard run, on which he was caught from behind. Other than that, Green found little running room. Too often, he was hit at or behind the line. Green is not the kind of back to make something out of nothing unless he bulls ahead for a couple of yards. When he tries to cut back, he sometimes comes to almost a complete stop, allowing defenders to get to him.

PASS DEFENSE: D - The three interceptions the Browns had were more the result of bad Carson Palmer throws (twice) and a drop-and-kick by receiver Chad Johnson. Johnson, kept in check by Anthony Henry in the first Bengals game, caught 10 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown. T.J. Houshmandzadeh also had a big game. Going mostly against Daylon McCutcheon, Houshmandzadeh caught four passes for 79 yards, including a 53-yard catch over McCutcheon.

RUSH DEFENSE: F - Rudi Johnson ran for 202 yards in 26 carries. Johnson's a good back, but he's not among the league's elite. The Browns made him look like was. Johnson repeatedly shed tackles and dragged tacklers for extra yards. The Browns had done a solid job defending the run most of the year. This was their worst performance of the season.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-plus - After missing two kicks last week to snap a streak of 27 successful field goals, Phil Dawson made short field goals of 23 and 29 yards Sunday. Derrick Frost had a so-so game. He averaged 44 yards in four punts, but he had a 45-yarder that he mishit but got a favorable bounce. The kickoff return units got plenty of practice, but Richard Alston's longest return in 10 attempts was 27 yards. The coverage units played poorly. Keiwan Ratliff returned a punt 49 yards. Cliff Russell had a 34-yard kickoff return and Kenny Watson added one for 32 yards.

COACHING: B-minus - The coaching staff deserves credit for the Browns not rolling over in light of the turmoil surrounding Butch Davis' fate. One hallmark of Davis' teams is that they have consistently played hard, and yesterday was no exception. But the coaches also deserve blame for their complete inability to slow Cincinnati's offense. Allowing that many points to a team that hadn't score more than 26 all seasons was inexcusable, and the Browns never seemed to make significant adjustments.

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