Published September 17, 2012
CINCINNATI – Brandon Weeden had one of the most prolific games by a Browns rookie quarterback. Trent Richardson topped even Jim Brown for most versatile performance by a Cleveland rookie runner.
What did it get them? Just another loss. No surprise there, not in their intrastate rivalry.
Andy Dalton had another big game against the Browns, tying his career high with three touchdown passes, and Adam "Pacman" Jones ran Cleveland's first punt back 81 yards for another score on Sunday, leading the Cincinnati Bengals to a 34-27 victory in their lopsided rivalry.
Cincinnati (1-1) has won 13 of the last 16 against Cleveland (0-2), an eight-year run of dominance that spans a lot of quarterbacks and running backs but almost always comes out the same.
For the Bengals, it was a reassuring ending to a stressful week. They got blown out in Baltimore 44-13 Monday night, matching the most lopsided loss to open a season in team history. They looked so bad that they were a bit shaken.
"I think everybody was," coach Marvin Lewis said. "It's the opening game and you've been pointing to this game, it's Monday night football ... It has been a very tense week."
Jones relaxed them a bit with his fifth career punt return for a touchdown and his first since 2003 with Tennessee. He celebrated by wrapping himself around the padding on the goal post, holding on tightly for several seconds. It's the way he used to celebrate scores back when his troubled career was getting started.
"It just felt like home," Jones said. "I was back home."
From then on, two young quarterbacks tried to keep up with each other.
Weeden was coming off one of the worst debuts in NFL history, throwing four interceptions in a 17-16 loss to the Eagles that left him with a 5.1 passer rating. He started completing short, quick throws in the second quarter on Sunday and took apart a defense that's reeling.
Weeden went 26 of 37 for 322 yards — the most yards by a Browns rookie quarterback — and two touchdowns. His passer rating was an impressive 114.9, encouraging for a team that's been searching for a quarterback for a long time.
"We're getting there," Weeden said. "The running game definitely takes a lot of pressure off of me. It helps when you run the ball."
Richardson became the first Browns rookie to run for 100 yards and to score on both a run and a pass in the same game, according to STATS LLC. He carried 19 times for 109 yards, the first Browns rookie to top 100 yards since Lee Suggs ran for 187 against Cincinnati in 2003.
"I had a big stat day and it was a much better game for me," said Richardson, who had knee surgery on Aug. 9. "I wouldn't call it a complete game. It's coming along. We did a good job, but I think we can be even better."
It wasn't enough to overcome another impressive game by Dalton, who has been at his best in the intrastate rivalry. In three career games against Cleveland, Dalton has completed 71 percent of his throws for 669 yards with five touchdowns, one interception and a 114 passer rating.
Dalton scrambled and threw a short pass that Andrew Hawkins turned into a 50-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, putting Cincinnati in control. Phil Dawson's field goal cut it to 34-27 with 20 seconds left, but the Bengals recovered the onside kick to seal it.
"It was a tense week but you know, we were able to get it done," said Dalton, who was 24 of 31 for 318 yards with one interception and six sacks. "It's what we had to do."
NOTES: The previous record for a Browns rookie passer was 310 yards by Eric Zeier at Cincinnati on Oct. 29, 1995. ... Cleveland's six sacks was its most since 2009. ... The last time Cleveland had 300 yards passing and 100 rushing was in 2007, when Derek Anderson threw for 328 yards and Jamal Lewis rushed for 216 yards against Cincinnati. ... LB Scott Fujita played for the first time since his three-game bounty suspension was overturned on appeal. CB Joe Haden served the first week of his four-game suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances.
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