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Browns bumble, stumble in loss to Bengals

Michael Truax • Sep 13, 2011 at 2:10 AM

Welcome to 2011, Cleveland.

Some first-quarter statistics: seven Browns penalties for 48 yards, accounting for 2 of 8 first downs by the Bengals.

Cleveland accrued than twice as many penalty yards than offensive yards after 15 minutes of play, falling behind 10-0, with another field goal shortly into the second quarter.

But despite the terrible start, the Browns' offense put two touchdowns on the board in the second quarter on passes to tight ends Ben Watson and Evan Moore for a 14-13 lead at the half.

"We were up at halftime, so (the early penalties) didn't even matter," Moore said. "We just had to win the second half, and we weren't able to get it done."

With 8:00 to play in the game, a heavy rain started falling on the field, washing away the Browns' momentum. Down 17-14 with 4:31 to play, the Bengals quick-snapped on third and 11, catching the Browns' defense still huddled. Bengals rookie AJ Green hauled in his first reception and touchdown of his career.

"Everybody was standing in the middle, looking at D'Qwell, trying to figure out what the call was," cornerback Joe Haden said. "We never got one, so when we heard everybody screaming that (meant) everybody was lined up and everybody just started running."

The Cleveland comedy continued with 3:00 to play: With Josh Cribbs charging, just the punter ahead, Greg Little laid a devastating block on a Bengals defender. Little blasted through the defender and stopped Cribbs' momentum, sending him spinning toward the sideline.

Shurmur didn't blame Little for the stop; he was just doing his job. "There's no formula for that," he said.

The Browns misfired on their final two possessions, thoroughly earning their first loss of the season.

New coach, new defense, new offense. Forty-seven of 53 players on the Browns' roster have been with the team four years or less, 24 players with two years of experience or less.

Coming into the Week 1 "Battle of Ohio," the Bengals were supposed to be the team with major growing pains exposed by the Browns.

Welcome to 2011.

Kickoff classic

So much for the new kickoff distance not affecting the excitement of the game.

And so much for Josh Cribbs being rendered ineffective by the change.

The Bengals' first three kickoffs -- off the toe of former Buckeye Mike Nugent -- went right over Cribbs' head.

The fourth kick did not. Cribbs pulled it in eight yards deep in the end zone and hit the gas. He passed the Bengals' gunners at the 17-yard line and kept pushing, leaping a would-be tackler at the 30-yard line. Cribbs made it to the Browns' 43, a 51-yard return.

"They wanted me to keep it in and just be smart, but enough was enough," he said.

The return sparked the Browns' first positive offensive movement, a four-play, 57-yard drive capped with a touchdown.

Challenge accepted

This is not the sophomore you're looking for.

The Bengals quarterbacks challenged Joe Haden five times, and he responded with five passes defensed.

Some credited him for allowing the late touchdown pass to AJ Green, but the entire defense was in the dark.

The victim was safety TJ Ward: the two key passing plays on the Bengals' first touchdown drive were within his radius, including the two-yard touchdown to Jermaine Gresham.

Re-rookie year

D'Qwell Jackson lived up to the aniticipation in his 4-3 defense debut. He finished with 11 tackles (10 solo) and two sacks, with a tackle-for-loss, a forced fumble and a quarterback hit.

Not bad for a guy that missed the last half of 2009 and all of 2010 with injuries.

Jackson led the Browns in tackles in 2007 and 2008.

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