Published September 30, 2013
CLEVELAND – After leaving Cleveland's locker room, Brian Hoyer stopped and signed autographs for some young, starry-eyed Browns fans. He posed for a picture with a stadium employee.
Hoyer soon found his wife, Lauren, who is due with the couple's second child in a few weeks.
As Cleveland's quarterback headed toward his waiting car, there wasn't much outward emotion, nothing to make this Sunday seem overly special. Just another day at the office.
It was anything but.
"I call Hoyer, man, the hometown hero," Browns defensive lineman Phil Taylor said. "I'm going to start that campaign pretty soon here."
Hoyer for Mayor may be next.
For the second straight week, Hoyer, the local kid who grew up dreaming of one day leading the Browns, made enough big plays to give Cleveland its second win in a row, 17-6 over the Cincinnati Bengals.
Hoyer added a new chapter to his storybook start in Cleveland. As a boy, he attended Browns games with his father and remembered crying at the team's final game in old Cleveland Stadium before the franchise moved to Baltimore. Now Hoyer, who spent three seasons in New England sitting behind Tom Brady and picking the star QB's brain, is making new memories for a Browns team that was given up for dead after two weeks.
Hoyer threw two touchdown passes, the second to running back Chris Ogbonnaya with 4:54 left as the Browns (2-2) stunned the Bengals (2-2) to move into a tie atop the AFC North.
"He did a great job, particularly managing some of the things early," Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said. "He stepped up and made some great decisions and throws."
Hoyer tried to downplay his performance, deferring to his teammates and 70,000 fans, which included family members and friends.
Still, it was a day he won't soon forget.
"It's awesome," said Hoyer, who completed 25 of 38 passes for 269 yards and no interceptions. "I grew up here. I know what these fans are like. They were really energized. There were times on third down it got loud. That's what we need and we are going to need that again Thursday night."
It's a short week for the revived Browns, who host Buffalo on Thursday.
Here are five things we learned while the Browns handled the Bengals in the 80th edition of the "Battle of Ohio."
SHUT DOWN: Browns cornerback Joe Haden made Bengals star wide receiver A.J. Green look ordinary.
Haden's blanket coverage on Green made things easier for the Cleveland's defense. Green was targeted 15 times by quarterback Andy Dalton, but he caught just seven passes for 51 yards as he spent the day with No. 23 (Haden) all over him.
"He's a great receiver, very talented, but me, the secondary and everybody made it a main focus to make sure he didn't get any big plays," Haden said. "Andy Dalton never got a rhythm with A.J."
BUNGLED: The Bengals want to silence their doubters and prove they belong among the AFC's elite. They didn't play like it.
Cincinnati's offense gained just 266 yards, converted only 29 percent (4 of 14) on third down and didn't score a touchdown. The Bengals defense gave up 95- and 91-yard TD drives, allowed the Browns to convert 50 percent (9 of 18) on third down and didn't force a turnover.
"I'm embarrassed," Pro Bowl tackle Andrew Whitworth said of the Bengals' two field goals. "It can't happen again. We've got to find a way to correct it. We have the ability and talent, it should never happen."
CHUD'S CHOICE: With Hoyer getting his second win, it's probable he'll hang on to his starting job for at least another week. Hoyer was supposed to fill in while Brandon Weeden recovered from a sprained thumb, but he's got the Browns rolling.
Chudzinski wouldn't commit to Hoyer as his starter, but it's hard to imagine him going back to Weeden.
"I'm still going through the same process," Chudzinski said. "We'll evaluate today and tomorrow and start getting ready for Buffalo."
DALTON'S DUD: The critics who don't believe Dalton can lead the Bengals to glory have some new ammunition.
He played poorly, completing 23 of 42 passes for 206 yards with an interception and a 58.1 rating — his third-lowest rating in a regular-season game.
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis didn't criticize his QB, but he wasn't pleased with the outing.
"It's better for me to watch tape to really analyze that," Lewis said. "I don't know if we had anyone play well enough throughout the day."
TURNAROUND: At 0-2, the Browns looked lost and the season appeared to be headed for disaster.
But since the stunning trade of running back Trent Richardson, Cleveland is 2-0 and tied for first one-quarter of the way into the season.
"The alternative is bad when you're 0-4 or 1-3 and fighting to try to get into the race," Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas said. "Sitting at 2-2, it's not where we wanted to be. But after an 0-2 start, it's as good as we could have done. Sitting there with a lot of games to go, but still fighting in the division. You can't ask for any more."
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org