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A month ago, the Browns had hopes of this game against the Bengals being for playoff spot at the least, if not for a shot at a division title. Instead, the Browns limped into the final week of the NFL regular season on a three-game losing streak, eliminated from the postseason, last in the AFC North and guaranteed of a losing record.
The Browns, though, managed to end the regular season with a 21-16 win over Bengals on Sunday. That helped them prevent their 17th season of double-digit losses in the 23 seasons since the franchise's return in 1999
Cleveland entered after a dismal 26-14 loss at Pittsburgh on Monday Night Football. The Bengals (10-6), on the other hand, couldn't be more thrilled with how things have unfolded down the stretch. Their 34-31 comeback win at home over Kansas City a week ago clinched them a playoff spot and the AFC North title.
The Browns' high point this season, other than three straight wins to get to 3-1 back in September, was their 41-16 rout of the Bengals in Cincinnati on Nov. 7. The Browns went 3-5 after that win. Here's how this game unfolded Sunday in Cleveland:
Browns win 21-16
Bengals score; onsides kick drama
On a fourth-and-one from the Browns' four-yard-line Bengals QB Brandon Allen finds RB Chris Evans in the flat for a touchdown. The two-point conversion fails, but the Bengals attempt at an onsides kick is offers a bit of drama and is eventually recovered by the Browns with 2:25 left in the game. The Browns lead 21-16.
Browns end season with win: D'Ernest Johnson, Case Keenum lead Browns to win over Bengals, who were minus Joe Burrow
Browns up by two scores
Case Keenum hits RB Demetric Felton with a short pass that he takes 10 yards for the touchdown to give the Browns a 21-10 lead and put them ahead by two possessions with 7:14 left in the game.
Browns RB D'Ernest Johnson runs for more than 100
D'Ernest Johnson currently has 113 yards on 21 carries. The Browns have rushed for 194 as a team and are averaging 5.5 per attempt with 8:50 left in the fourth quarter.
Browns defense continues to thrive
The Browns defense is putting up another stellar effort, forcing the Bengals into a three-and-out from their own two.
Another fourth-and-goal whiff
The Browns offense marched the ball 79 yards to the Bengals two-yard line. Sixty-three of those yards game on the ground, but the Browns came up short on a fourth-and-goal on a pass from Case Keenum to Donovan Peoples-Jones. The score remains 14-10.
Bengals score on a field goal
After the Browns are unable to generate any offense in the opening drive of the second half, the Bengals take the ball and run 8:36 off the clock using 14 plays and amassing 52 yards. The Browns defense holds the Bengals to a 36-yard Elliott Fry FG. The Browns hold a 14-10 lead.
Halftime: Browns 14-7
The Browns could have a more significant lead were it not for self-inflicted wounds courtesy of the offense. First was the strip sack return for a TD (see below) and then Case Keenum has a pass deflected while it appeared the Browns were driving for a touchdown. Instead, the ball ends up in the arms of a the Bengals' Mike Hilton. On the play it looked as if at least one Browns receiver ran the wrong route anyway.
Bengals score a defensive touchdown
The Bengals DE Wyatt Ray forces a Case Keenum fumble that teammate Trayvon Henderson scoops up and takes to the end zone for a 29-yard touchdown which cuts the Browns' lead to 14-7.
— NFL (@NFL) January 9, 2022
Browns defense is here
The Bengals have had five possessions and produced five punts thus far. Browns defense has limited them to 49 total yards and no points with 9:45 left to play in the first half.
Browns offense finding a groove?
The Browns score a touchdown on their second consecutive drive behind the running of running back D'Ernest Johnson, who accounts for 20 yards on a six-play, 58-yard drive including a four-yard touchdown run to make the score 14-0 after the extra point.
Case Keenum finds Jarvis Landry for TD
With 56 seconds left in the first quarter, the Browns strike first as Case Keenum connects with Jarvis Landry for a 26-yard touchdown to complete a six-play, 79-yard drive. Browns lead 7-0
— NFL (@NFL) January 9, 2022
Two drives, nothing from Browns offense
The Browns offense with Case Keenum at the helm continues to show the lack of punch that's plagued it for much of the season. Keenum had rookie wide receiver Anthony Schwartz on an inside route on a third-and-9 with room to ruwith a perfectly thrown pass and Schwartz dropped it.
Ja'Marr Chase breaks Bengals record
Yes, it's not a Browns milestone, but still Ja'Marr Chase breaking Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson's season receiving yard record is notable.
Most receiving yards in a single season in Bengals franchise history
2021 Ja'Marr Chase 1,455+
2007 Chad Johnson 1,440
2005 Chad Johnson 1,432 pic.twitter.com/i2umj2ibpR
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) January 9, 2022
What time do the Cleveland Browns play today, and how to watch TV, live stream
Game time: 1 p.m. ET, Sunday, Jan. 9
TV: WJW Fox
Online livestream: Available on desktop web via FOXSports.com or in the FOX Sports app on mobile phones, tablets and connected devices. Viewers need FOX as part of their TV channel line-up in order to watch NFL games on the FOX Sports website and app. Browns games also are live (to in-market fans only) on the official Browns iOS Mobile App.
Browns vs. Bengals betting odds, spread and lines
Odds provided by Tipico Sportsbook; access USA TODAY Sports’ betting odds for a full list.
Money line: Bengals +125 (bet $100 to win $125) | Browns -155 (bet $155 to win $100)
Against the spread (ATS): Bengals +2.5 (+105) | Browns -2.5 (-130)
Over/Under (O/U): 44.5 (O: -103 | U: -117)
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This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Sunday replay: Cleveland Browns beat Cincinnati Bengals