The Bengals avoided being the first team to lose to the Browns this year and they can thank rookie running back Joe Mixon for playing a big role in the win.
Mixon ran 23 times for 114 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown with just under three minutes to play that put the Bengals up 30-16 after a DeShone Kizer rushing touchdown made it a one score game. Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins would sack Kizer to start the next Browns drive and push the Browns closer to the 0-11 record that would become official with a fourth-down incompletion after the two minute warning.
Mixon added three catches for 51 yards in his biggest day as a professional player. It moves the Bengals to 5-6 on the season, which leaves them in the swamp that is the fringes of the AFC Wild Card race. A win over the Steelers at home next Monday will be essential to remaining in that neighborhood.
The Browns have no playoff aspirations and they have more than just a failure to stop Mixon to blame for their latest loss. They settled for field goals on three drives that were marred by penalties and Corey Coleman dropping a perfectly thrown pass by Kizer in the end zone. Mixon’s touchdown was set up by a penalty on rookie safety Jabrill Peppers for a hit to the head of a defenseless receiver, which was a tough call as Peppers appeared to have the proper target zone for his hit while making incidental contact with Josh Malone‘s helmet. A better call would have been pass interference on cornerback Jamar Taylor, who was holding Malone’s wrist as the Bengal tried to make the catch.
All of that mitigated productive days for Kizer, who threw for 268 yards in addition to his rushing touchdown, and Crowell, who ran 16 times for 95 yards, while adding to the misery that is football season in Cleveland.