One miserable quarter followed by a record-setting one. The Bengals pulled off one of those comebacks that they might look back upon as a turning point in their season.
"I hope I am looking back from somewhere in New York City," coach Marvin Lewis said, referring to the site of the next Super Bowl.
Cincinnati took a giant step toward another playoff appearance on Sunday, rallying from an early 13-point deficit to a 41-20 win over the intrastate rival Cleveland Browns. The Bengals (7-4) scored a club-record 31 points in the second quarter to brush away the Browns.
And now, they're in control of the AFC North.
The Browns, Ravens and Steelers are all tied at 4-6. Cleveland went into the game on Sunday looking to prove it's worthy of being touted as a contender. Instead, the Browns got their comeuppance.
"One thing led to another and the next thing you know, we're down big," cornerback Joe Haden said.
Five things learned from the most lopsided result in the intrastate series since Cincinnati's 30-0 win in 2006:
BENGALS ARE IN CONTROL: A loss would have left the AFC North wide open. Instead, Cincinnati's win combined with Baltimore's 23-20 overtime loss in Chicago left the Bengals with a two-game lead in the loss column heading into the final stretch. The Bengals have a bye week to rest, then finish with three of their last five games at Paul Brown Stadium, where they're 5-0 this season. The game on Sunday had enormous significance in the division.
"Cleveland has done a lot of really good things, put themselves in position in the division that this was a really big game for both teams," quarterback Andy Dalton said.
CINCINNATI HAS A COMPLETE TEAM: The Bengals scored their 31 points in the second quarter off Dalton's two touchdown passes, a blocked punt returned for a touchdown, a fumble returned for a touchdown and a field goal. Even when the offense struggles — Dalton threw two interceptions to Haden in the first quarter, one of which he returned for a touchdown — the rest of the team can make up for it. The defense came in ranked fourth in the NFL. The specials teams have blocked three kicks this season, the Bengals' best such showing since 1991.
BROWNS FALL APART: Cleveland viewed the game as a chance to prove it has grown beyond also-ran status. Even with an early 13-0 lead, the Browns couldn't pull it off. Jason Campbell threw his first interception of the season, followed by two more. The Browns got a first-and-goal at the 2 but had to settle for a field goal. The punt team got a kick blocked for the first time in 20 years. In most ways, it was a nightmare.
"I'm glad this one's over," linebacker D'Qwell Jackson said.
GOOD DALTON, BAD DALTON: A banner in the upper deck at Paul Brown Stadium said: "Will The Real Andy Please Stand Up?" The Bengals had lost their past two games in overtime, with Dalton throwing six interceptions. He threw two more to Haden in the first quarter. Dalton rebounded with three touchdown passes and finished 13 of 27 for 93 yards. Fans saw both sides of the third-year quarterback, who didn't get flustered after throwing two interceptions.
"There was so much game left and you can't get down at that point," Dalton said. "It's kind of how I've been and how I am. I try not to get too high or too low with whatever's going on in the game. We didn't let it affect us."
SETTING SOME RECORDS: Cincinnati's 31-point quarter surpassed the previous club mark of 28 points in a quarter, according to STATS LLC. ... The 31 points were the second-most allowed by the Browns in one quarter. They hadn't done it since they gave up 31 in the second quarter at Houston on Dec. 9, 1990. The club record is 35 points allowed in the first quarter of a 35-7 loss at Green Bay in 1967. ... Haden had the first two-interception game of his career and held A.J. Green to two catches for 7 yards, ending the receiver's club-record streak of five straight 100-yard games.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org