CLEVELAND—There were several players that stepped up and contributed to the Browns 34-24 win over the Bengals. It was not only the first win of the 2012 season for the Browns. The win snapped an 11 game losing streak dating to last year. It was also the first win for Pat Shurmur in the AFC North after losing eight straight losses in the division.
There were big plays from young players the Browns are counting on to seasoned veterans who have done it before. The Browns had big plays in all three phases of the game.
Former Bengals defensive end Frostee Rucker said it was especially satisfying to get a win over his former team.
“It feels good,” Rucker said. “But more importantly, it’s a win period.”
Clinging to a 10-point lead, 33-year old veteran cornerback Sheldon Brown stepped in front of an Andy Dalton pass and returned the interception 19 yards for a touchdown to make it 34-17 with 7:50 left in the game.
Another key player for the Browns was Joe Haden, who returned after a four-game interception. He intercepted his second pass of the season (in two games) and had seven tackles and three passes broken up. Haden’s interception set up a field goal by Phil Dawson.
“I felt ready and really comfortable,” Haden said. “I was glad I was able to make some plays.”
However, the Bengals scored quickly and after getting the ball back and moving to the Browns’ nine, this time Emmanuel Stephens broke through and sacked Dalton and caused a fumble. Rookie Billy Winn picked up the fumble and rambled 55 yards before getting tackled. The play sealed the victory.
“I saw the quarterback stepping up and Emmanuel (Stephens) sacking him and causing him to fumble,” Winn said. “I picked it up and thought I had a chance (to go all the way). I just had to keep going.”
The defense came into the game short-handed with Ahtyba Rubin, Scott Fujita and Dimitri Patterson out with injuries.
“We knew we were a little short,” Winn said. “We just had to have other guys carry the flag.”
Offensively, rookie Josh Gordon continued to show he can make big plays. Trailing 7-0, on the first play of the second quarter, Brandon Weeden lofted a deep ball and Gordon stretched one arm and hauled it in and completed the 71-yard play for a touchdown. It was his third touchdown in two games.
“The wind took the ball and it had a little duck tail on it at the last second,” Gordon said. “I had to bring it in with one hand.”
Gordon had three receptions for 99 yards, including a key 14-yard reception that moved the ball to the Bengals’ 13. It set up Montario Hardesty’s first touchdown.
“It’s important to make plays and to contribute to the win,” Gordon said.
Weeden, who celebrated his 29th birthday, threw for 231 yards and had two touchdowns and an interception. He likes what he sees of Gordon.
“I’ve been telling you guys that Josh is getting better all the time,” Weeden said.
Hardesty stepped in when Trent Richardson suffered an injury to his flank. He gave the offense a spark and finished with 56 yards on 15 carries and the score. He also caught a pass for nine yards.
“I was just glad to get our first win,” Hardesty said. “I love to play the game of football and was ready when I got an opportunity.
“The O- line did a pretty good job with the push to give me holes.”
Josh Cribbs keyed the special teams with two big returns that set up scores. He had a 60-yard punt return that set up Dawson’s field goal.
After the Bengals cut the lead to 20-17 early in the fourth quarter, Cribbs had a 44-yard return that jump started a drive that resulted in a 3-yard touchdown pass to Ben Watson.