The Browns needed a break.
They got one as Bengals' Pro Bowl quarterback Carson Palmer was on the sidelines with an elbow injury. Backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick started just his fourth NFL game. Palmer had been struggling with just one touchdown and three interceptions in the first games, but was coming off his best game against the Giants last week.
Even that almost wasn't enough for the Browns as it took them a while to take advantage of the situation, but they prevailed, 20-12 and improved to 1-3 heading into the bye week. They also are 1-2 in the division. Meanwhile, the Bengals dropped to 0-4.
The Browns were able to take advantage of five Bengal turnovers and turn them into 10 fourth quarter points in capturing the win.
The game started with Romeo Crennel's coming out strong. The Browns forced a three-and-out on the Bengals' first possession and then ran the ball six consecutive times and moved to the Bengals' five in their first drive, before stalling on third-and-one. Phil Dawson kicked his fifth consecutive field goal without a miss with 9:29 to play in the first quarter to give the Browns a 3-0 lead.
The Bengals tied the game at 3-3 with 10:22 in the second quarter as Shayne Graham kicked a 42-yard field goal. Fitzpatrick picked up the Bengals' first two first downs as he scrambled on third downs. The Browns had two offside penalties on Louis Leonard and Corey Williams on the drive.
The Bengals took a 6-3 lead with eight seconds to play in the first half as Graham kicked a 46-yard field goal. The Browns had stopped the Bengals on an interception by Eric Wright, but he fumbled the ball back to the Bengals on the return.
The Browns needed a spark, trailing 6-3, to start the second half and received it as Josh Cribbs had a 44-yard return to start the second half and the Browns started at the Bengals' 48. On the first play, Anderson hit Syndric Steptoe for a 17-yard gain, which was the Browns longest play from scrimmage at the time. It was challenged by the Bengals, but upheld.
The Browns moved into field goal position, but Anderson threw an interception with 13:15 to play in the third quarter to Chinedum Ndukwe at the Bengals' 24.
Fitzpatrick came out and completed three straight passes after the turnover and moved into the Browns' territory before stopping the Bengals and forcing them to punt.
The punt was to the Browns' two and Anderson came back as the starter. After two runs, the Browns got a first down, but Braylon Edwards was flagged for a personal foul and the Browns were back inside the five. They had to punt and the Bengals had the ball near midfield.
With 13:05 to play in the game, the Browns scored their first touchdown of the game and took the lead 10-6 as Anderson hit Edwards from four yards out. The Browns went 80 yards in 13 plays. They had the ball for 6:38, by far their most impressive drive of the game—if not the season.
To set up the score, the defense was able to stop the Bengals and after a punt into the end zone, the Browns started at the 20. Anderson, despite a 16 QB rating to that point, came out and was able to move the Browns down field for the score.
He hit Kellen Winslow three times on the drive, for Winslow's first three receptions of the game and the Browns moved to the Bengals' five after a third down conversion to Lawrence Vickers on a short pass. Anderson hit Edwards for a touchdown, but Edwards couldn't get both feet in bounds as Leon Hall knocked Edwards out of the end zone. On the next play, Anderson tried the same play on the other side and Edwards caught his first touchdown of the season to give the Browns the lead.
On the ensuing Bengals' possession, the Browns got a turnover as Chris Perry fumbled after a hit by Kamerion Wimbley and Mike Adams recovered the ball at the Bengals' 24. Lewis went in from the one and the Browns had a 17-6 lead with 11:06 to play in the game. It took the Browns just 1:52 and four plays to cover the 24 yards for the score.
Anderson hit Winslow on the first play after the turnover for 20 yards to the four. On first down Lewis fumbled the ball, but the Browns were able to recover. On second down, Anderson bootlegged to the one before Lewis went over the top for the score.
After the Browns' second touchdown, the Bengals came right back as Fitzpatrick hit Chad Johnson with 7:46 to play for the score to make it 17-12. The Bengals went for the two-point conversion and it failed. It was Johnson's first touchdown reception of the season, as he beat Eric Wright for the score.
After stopping the Browns with 3:07 to play in Browns' territory, the Browns elected to punt, but Dave Zastudil was unable to get the ball inside the 20 as he kicked it into the end zone. The Bengals tried to get the first down, but rookie Alex Hall sacked Fitzpatrick and jarred the ball loose and it was recovered by Corey Williams at the Bengals' 19.
The Browns were able to kick a 29-yard field goal with just 32 seconds to play to make it 20-12 as Dawson hit his second of the game.
Run Jamal Run: After RB Jamal Lewis complained last week of only getting the ball 12 times received the first four plays of the game and picked up 38 yards, including an 18-yard gain. Lewis had nine carries for 45 yards in the first quarter. Lewis had 12 carries midway through the second quarter for 55 yards. He also had a reception for nine yards, which at halftime was the longest reception for the Browns. Lewis scored his first touchdown of the season from one yard after the Bengals turned the ball over in the fourth quarter. Lewis finished with 25 rushes for 79 yards, including a touchdown. He caught two passes for 15 yards.
Big Play Rookie: Rookie LB Alex Hall made the biggest play of the game as he sacked QB Ryan Fitzpatrick with just three minutes to play and cause him to fumble. DL Corey Williams recovered at the Bengals' 19 and the Browns were able to tack on a field goal by Dawson for their final score.
Late O: The Browns were hoping to jump start their offense as they played the 24th ranked defense in the league, but were unable to score a touchdown until they scored two in a span of about two minutes in the fourth quarter.
Harrison Action: The Browns made a concerted effort to get the ball to RB Jerome Harrison. He had two rushes in the first half for 22 yards, including a reverse for 12 yards. They attempted to pass to him as well, but he caught one pass for five yards. He had another rush for three yards in the fourth quarter on a reverse and then he lost five yards on a pitchout. He had 20 yards on four carries.
Clock Management: With the Bengals out of timeouts, Anderson stopped the clock with 4:24 to play to talk about what to do and the play was a Lewis run up the middle for no gain. The Bengals had burned all of their timeouts in the third quarter.
Spark Plug: As he had been so many times last year, KR Josh Cribbs opened the second half with a 44-yard return to give the Browns a start at the Bengals' 48.
Double Turnover: DB Eric Wright intercepted QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, but on the return he fumbled it back to the Bengals at the Browns' 45 for a net gain of 10 yards for the Bengals. Wright had the ball into Bengals' territory, but wasn't holding the ball securely and he was popped and the ball went right to WR Chad Johnson to allow the Bengals to continue their drive near the end of the first half.
Gamblers: The Browns had fourth-and-inches on the Bengals' 45 and elected to go for the first down. Anderson faked into the line and had a wide open TE Steve Heiden,but he threw the ball into the ground at Heiden's feet under pressure, to turn the ball over to the Bengals.
DA's Day: QB Derek Anderson completed his first two passes for 13 yards to WR Braylon Edwards and WR Syndric Steptoe. At the half, he was just 4-of-10 for 27 yards and a 47.9 QB rating. Edwards and Steptoe each had just one catch. TE Kellen Winslow had no receptions at the half and caught his first pass with 4:38 to play in the third quarter for just five yards. Anderson was sacked once for an 11-yard loss for a net 16 yards in the passing game. Anderson had a 17-yard completion to open the third quarter, but threw an interception to end the scoring opportunity. Anderson's QB rating was just 16 late in the third quarter, but improved to 67 in the fourth quarter. On third-and-3, Anderson threw an interception to David Jones, but it was called back on an offside penalty on the Bengals. Anderson had a 10-yard run in the third quarter to keep a touchdown drive going. Anderson finished the game 15-of-24 for 138 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He was sacked once. His QB rating finished at 74.7 after being around 16 through three quarters.
Getting Pressure: The Bengals had one of the worst offensive lines in protecting the quarterback and it took until 1:03 to play in the first half before the Browns got their first sack by LB Kamerion Wimbley. It was Wimbley's first sack of the season. Alex Hall and Shaun Rogers picked up sacks to give the Browns three.
Big Mac: DB Brandon McDonald shot through from the right corner position and dropped RB Chris Perry for a four-yard loss.
K2 and Braylon: TE Kellen Winslow finished with five catches for 54 yards after having zero at the half. WR Braylon Edwards had three for 22, including a touchdown.
Dumb Mistakes: The Browns defensive line lined up offside twice to keep Bengals' drives alive in the first half. DL Louis Leonard and DL Corey Williams were penalized and then on the next series Williams was flagged for being offside for the second time. After being deep in the hole in the third quarter, WR Braylon Edwards took the first down away when he made a late hit and the Browns had to punt from their end zone. Leonard gave the Bengals a first down in the third quarter as he lined up offside again.
Pick of the Day: DB Mike Adams intercepted QB Ryan Fitzpatrick in the second quarter. It was his second of the season. DB Eric Wright also intercepted Fitzpatrick, but fumbled it back to the Bengals on the return.
Double Duo: DB Mike Adams had an interception and a fumble recovery, while LB Kamerion WImbley had a sack caused a fumble that was recovered by Adams. It was Wimbley's first sack of the season.
D Start: After forcing two three –and-outs on defense the Bengals got their first, first down with 15 seconds to play in the first quarter as QB Ryan Fitzpatrick scrambled for the first down. Fitzpatrick picked up the Bengals' second first down the same way. The Bengals went 68 yards on 13 plays to tie the score with a 42-yard field goal by K Shayne Graham. The defense held the Bengals without a touchdown.
Poocher: K Phil Dawson lined up to attempt a 57-yard field goal, but took the snap and pooch punted it to the Bengals' seven in the first quarter.
New Guy: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick was originally a seventh-round draft choice by the Rams from Harvard. He had only played in eight NFL games, including four starts.