TONY TRIBBLE / AP Enlarge
CINCINNATI - The Browns turned a corner on offense in Detroit last week, all right. If not for that brick wall on the other side they'd be in business.
Splat went the offense again, squashed like a bug by the Cincinnati Bengals in an all-too-familiar loss 16-7 Sunday afternoon at Paul Brown Stadium.
The deceptive score completed a 6-0 sweep for the Bengals in division games and all but assured Cincinnati (8-3) of claiming the AFC North title.
The Bengals out-rushed the Browns 210-58 and controlled the kicking game as if their roster were the one built for special teams. Those factors enabled Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer to win despite a bad day (13-of-24 for 110 yards, one touchdown and three sacks).
"They came out and ran the ball, what, 75 times?" said Browns linebacker David Bowens.
The Browns' offensive relapse, meanwhile, re-established the first year of coach Eric Mangini as a season for the ages. Or, should we say, for the aged.
• The Browns dropped to 1-10 for the first time in their history. That didn't happen in 1975, when they lost their first nine games under rookie coach Forrest Gregg. It didn't happen in 1999 under ex-pansion coach Chris Palmer.
• The 10th loss assured the Browns of their sixth season of double-digit losses in seven years. That is the worst stretch in their history.
The Bengals limited the Browns to 169 offensive yards - their best defensive showing since a game against Pittsburgh in 1983.
And yet, the Browns maintained that their game plan did not differ drastically from the one that produced 439 yards, 37 points, and numerous deep passes against the Lions last week.
"I really felt like we had some opportunities," Mangini said. "We had some guys open and we couldn't get the ball to them."
Quarterback Brady Quinn, who is still looking for his first win in a division game, was all over the place with his throws, and that did include hitting some receivers on the hands. He was 15-of-34 for 100 yards and one sack.
The highlights of the game for him occurred in the Browns' lone scoring drive in the third quarter. Quinn caught his first pass since the homecoming game of his senior year at Coffman (Dublin, Ohio) High School - a gain of 18 yards on a throw from Josh Cribbs after a handoff from Quinn. Five plays later, Quinn scored the touchdown from nine yards out on a designed quarterback draw. That was the third rushing touchdown of the season from the Browns - all scored by quarterbacks.
The low points came five minutes into the fourth quarter, with the Browns backed up to their 13-yard line. Despite the lopsided statistics, the Bengals kept the Browns in the game by committing 10 penalties and generally forsaking the forward pass.
From the 13, Quinn attempted three successive short passes to Cribbs. The first and third were wide receiver screens that did not fool the Bengals.
Of the compressed passing game overall, Quinn said, "They bring some pressure and sometimes it is more than we can handle. A lot of times it doesn't allow me to sit back there and take all day to throw."
The Browns needed their defense and special teams to have good days, and they didn't.
Cribbs was frustrated all day in the return game. He had no yards on punt returns and only 38 on two kickoff returns. That's the thing about relying so much on a return specialist. He can be taken out of a game rather easily by a scheming opponent.
"It gets harder and harder to get the ball in Josh's hands because no one wants to kick to him," Mangini said. "It doesn't matter which team we face, when they're facing us they are going to give it their best shot."
As usual, the defense had its moments. As usual, it also gave up chunks of yards on the ground.
With starter Cedric Benson sitting out with a hip injury, the Bengals alternated outside threat Bernard Scott with newly acquired power runner Larry Johnson. Johnson, who averaged 2.7 yards a rush for the Chiefs before being released three weeks ago, averaged 4.9 on 107 yards on 22 attempts. Scott added 87 on 18 carries.
Cincinnati's lone touchdown came on a four-yard Palmer toss to tight end J.P. Foschi in the second quarter.
The loss was another costly one for the Browns. They lost four starters on defense to injuries - end Kenyon Coleman, safety Brodney Pool, tackle Shaun Rogers and linebacker Kamerion Wimbley.
Rogers was carted off with what appeared to be a serious ankle or Achilles injury.39.10661 -84.50455