It pretty much was a day in the park for the Browns against the Bengals JayVees. (Cleveland Browns)
Browns salvage sweep over Bengals with 21-16 win over JV's in season finale
You must have an active subscription to read this story.
Click Here to subscribe Now!
Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for TheLandOnDemand.com and 850 ESPN Cleveland.
Instant takeaways from Browns’ 21-16 win over Cincinnati Bengals …
1. They’ll take it: The Browns can always say, “At least we swept the division champs.” That was the end result of a 21-16 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals JV squad. The Bengals didn’t even bring quarterback Joe Burrow with them, had several starters out with COVID, and rested all remaining regulars after the first two series. Yet the Browns struggled to put the game away. Case Keenum, filling in for injured Baker Mayfield, and running back D’Ernest Johnson, serving as primary ball-carrier, teamed for their second victory of the season together. Keenum had touchdown passes of 26 yards to Jarvis Landry and 10 to Demetric Felton and Johnson rushed for 123 yards and one TD. The game was only that close because Keenum lost a fumble that was returned for a Bengals touchdown, tossed one interception in the end zone and misfired on a fourth-and-goal short pass for Donovan Peoples-Jones. Still, the win made the Browns (8-9) 2-0 over the Bengals (10-7), who locked up the AFC North title last week. Couple with Baltimore's loss in overtime to Pittsburgh, the Browns wound up in third place and the Ravens fell to the cellar.
2. Not this time: Bengals sub QB Brandon Allen victimized the Browns with his first career victory in his first NFL start with the Denver Broncos in 2019. He was not successful in place of Burrow. With all of Cincinnati’s top-flight skill players getting most of the day off, Allen was unable to put an offensive touchdown on the board until 2:26 left in the game. He missed a pass on the 2-point conversion. With no timeouts left, the Bengals tried an onside kick. Harrison Bryant muffed it and M.J. Stewart and A.J. Green grappled for the ball at the Browns’ 49. It took the game officials way too long to untangle the bodies and give the Browns possession. Ultimately, Bryant was credited with the recovery.
3. Chubbed up: Nick Chubb was pulled after three offensive possessions after only 22 yards on 6 attempts. But he was reinserted late in the third quarter to give workhorse-of-the-day D’Ernest Johnson a breather. Chubb ripped off a 35-yard run, punctuated by a flying forearm to Bengals safety Michael Thomas, to move the ball to the Bengals’ 8. The Browns failed to punch it in, however, as Keenum’s fourth-and-goal pass from the 2 was behind Donovan Peoples-Jones. Chubb finished with 58 yards on 9 carries, giving him 1,259 on the season and a 5.52-yard rushing average.
4. Not pretty: Playing against the Bengals’ No. 2 defense after Cincinnati pulled the few regulars who started for the game's third series, Keenum built a 14-7 lead on a 26-yard touchdown throw to Landry, on which Bengals cornerback Tre Flowers fell down in coverage, and a 4-yard TD run by Johnson. The Bengals were within striking distance only because of two turnovers by Keenum. The first was a strip-sack by end Wyatt Ray, which safety Trayvon Henderson scooped up and returned 29 yards for a touchdown. Keenum also was intercepted in the end zone on the last play of the half on a throw from the Bengals’ 11 tipped at the line of scrimmage by linebacker Markus Bailey. Mike Hilton made the interception.
5. Clowney cashes in: Pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney had two sacks in the first half and lamented -- with obvious body language on the field -- not recovering an Allen fumble after the second. Nonetheless, it was a profitable piece of work for the soon-to-be free agent. Clowney hit an incentive for an additional $250,000 with his ninth sack of the season. He entered with seven on the year, which already netted him a cool $500,000.
6. Sit him down: The Bengals’ only goal beyond leaving the game as healthy as possible was to get rookie Ja’Marr Chase the franchise record for receiving yards in a season. Mission accomplished. Allen’s first four passes were intended for Chase. He got the record on a 24-yard catch-and-run. Chase finished with 1,455 receiving yards, breaking the Bengals record of 1,440 held by Chad Johnson. Allen threw an incompletion for Chase on the next play, after which Chase went to the bench – for good. By the way, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow did not even make the trip to Cleveland and watched from Cincinnati.
7. Take a bow: The Browns paid tribute to radio analyst Doug Dieken during a timeout in the second quarter. Dieken is retiring after 51 years as a Browns player and broadcaster. A video saluting Dieken was played on the giant screens and play-by-play man Jim Donovan announced the team's radio play-by-play booth was christened the Doug Dieken Radio Booth.
8. Looking ahead: Nuances of the 2022 Browns schedule include: four games against the AFC East, four games against the NFC South, and the 17th game will be on the road against the NFC East team that finishes in the same spot in its division as the Browns. By virtue of the Browns' third-place finish, the Browns’ home schedule would include New England, the Jets, Tampa Bay, New Orleans and the Chargers. The road schedule would include Buffalo, Miami, Atlanta, Carolina, Houston and Washington. Add the home-and-away series against Baltimore, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, of course.
9. Iron men: The Browns wound up with only six players who were active for all 17 games. That’s the fewest in the league. The six were Myles Garrett, Joel Bitonio, Wyatt Teller, Blake Hance, D’Ernest Johnson and Charley Hughlett.
10. Pre-game notes: Kareem Hunt was the biggest name among Browns’ inactives. It means Hunt finished the season playing only seven games because of injuries. As expected, the Bengals deactivated quarterback Joe Burrow. Other starters inactive were receiver Tee Higgins, linebacker Logan Wilson, defensive tackle D.J. Reader and kicker Evan McPherson.