CINCINNATI (AP) — After Cincinnati's fifth straight win on Sunday, quarterback Joe Burrow and coach Zac Taylor couldn't stop raving about the Bengals defense.
And rightly so. The unit has been overshadowed all season by the do-anything-to-win heroics of Burrow and his offense.
The Cincinnati defense held the Browns to 10 points and limited one of the NFL's best running backs, Nick Chubb, to 34 yards on 14 carries.
The Browns were stopped on three critical fourth-down plays, and safety Jessie Bates III intercepted Deshaun Watson late in the game.
“They gave us our best chance to win, and then the offense found a way to overcome that adversity, score some points. But it really started with our defense,” Taylor said.
The win ended Cincinnati's five-game skid in the Battle of Ohio and avenged an embarrassing 32-13 loss on Halloween. The Bengals haven't lost another game since.
The bad news was injuries. Receiver Tee Higgins aggravated a hamstring injury early, and receiver Tyler Boyd dislocated a finger on Burrow's first pass of the game.
The defense is complementing a Burrow-led offense that sometimes just does enough to win.
And the Bengals showed they can still throw the ball and win without two of their top receivers on the field. Burrow connected with little-used wideout Trenton Irwin for a 45-yard touchdown on a flea-flicker but relied mostly on Ja'Marr Chase.
The AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, who had missed four games with a hip fracture, had 10 catches for 119 yards and a TD.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The Bengals always stress a fast start. That did not happen Sunday. Burrow had a dismal first half, going 9 for 21 for 110 yards. After punting on their first three possessions, the Bengals scored on their last two possessions of the first half to take a 13-3 lead into halftime.
Nose tackle DJ Reader, who was out with an injury in the first Browns game, is considered a big reason why the Bengals were able to stop Tennessee's Derrick Henry to 38 yards in a 20-16 win on Nov. 27 and then contain Chubb on Sunday.
“He's one of the best defensive tackles in the league and, for some reason, not really anybody knows about him,” Burrow said. “It's time people start knowing about him.”
RB Samaje Perine was a capable starter when Joe Mixon was out for two games with a concussion. Perine will still have a role, but Mixon is the undisputed starter. Mixon rushed for 96 yards against the Browns. Perine got four carries for 22 yards.
Higgins and Boyd are day to day, Taylor said Monday. Defensive end Trey Hendrickson has a wrist injury, but Taylor didn’t provide details. DE Joseph Ossai injured his shoulder Sunday, and also is day to day.
72 — total rushing yards combined by Henry and Chubb against the Bengals defense.
After winning the past two in chilly Cincinnati, the Bengals get a warm weather game, traveling to Tampa to face Tom Brady and the NFC South-leading Buccaneers (6-7).
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