The Bengals enter their upcoming bye week all alone — and multiple games clear of the field — in the AFC North.
Cincinnati took a significant step toward a division title with a 41-20 victory against Cleveland on Sunday in Cincinnati. The win improved the Bengals to 7-4 and moved them 2.5 games ahead of the Browns, Ravens and Steelers.
The Browns had a chance to cut the Bengals’ lead to just a half-game in the division and earn the head-to-head tiebreaker against Cincinnati. Instead, the Bengals took care of business, overcoming a slow start and a tough day from their offense to prevail.
The Bengals came up big on defense and special teams. They intercepted Browns quarterback Jason Campbell three times, and linebacker Vontaze Burfict returned a fumble for a touchdown. The Bengals were superior in the kicking game, too, blocking two punts, one of which was brought back for a touchdown.
For the Browns, Sunday’s loss was one big missed opportunity. The Browns scored the game’s first 13 points, with cornerback Joe Haden picking Dalton twice in the first quarter. However, they simply made too many miscues to win, even with Cincinnati gaining just 224 yards and converting just 1-of-14 third downs.
The Bengals’ offense has had better days. And it will need to be better for Cincinnati to have a shot when the stakes get higher. But on this day, the Bengals’ other units picked up the offense — and carried the team.