CLEVELAND _ The Bengals not only had to cope with falling to 0-3 in the AFC North after Monday night's 32-13 loss to the Browns, but they left First Energy Stadium deeply concerned about No. 1 cornerback Chidobe Awuzie's knee injury sustained late in the first half.
"It's not great, but nothing is confirmed,' said head coach Zac Taylor. "It's tough. Chido is one of the hardest workers on the team. He's a great man of character. He gives his heart and soul to this. To see a guy like that hit like that, it's tough."
You got a sense for how much his teammates think of him as they flocked to the media tent to check on him.
"Unbelievable, that hurts really bad. He is an unbelievable player and I wish him all the best. We are going to miss him and I do not know what happened. I just saw him on crutches and this is really tough," said left end Sam Hubbard. "If you know anything about Chido, it means the world to him. He is one of the most reliable teammates that I have ever played with and not much to say other than he means a lot to this team."
The Bengals are reeling at cornerback. The other starter, Eli Apple (hamstring) was inactive and second-rounder Cam Taylor-Britt made his first NFL start in his second game. Then late in the third quarter Awuzie's backup, Tre Flowers, limped off the field with a hamstring injury and he was still limping in the locker room an hour later.
At the end, first-round safety Dax Hill found himself lined up on one of the game's great route runners, Amari Cooper, for the 53-yard pass that set up the Browns' last touchdown.
"Two rookie corners on the outside in this kind of game," said slot cornerback Mike Hilton. "It's good experience for them, but it's a tough situation to be in."
Cooper romped for 131 yards on five catches, Donovan Peoples-Jones went for 81 more and the ultimate backup quarterback, Jacoby Brissett, went for a season-high 278 yards and out-Burrowed Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow with a 133.7 passer rating on 17 of 22 passing.
ANOTTHER EARLY TURNOVER: Burrow, 0-4, is still looking for his first win over the Browns. Like last year, an interception on the first series set the tone. In the 41-16 loss at Paycor Stadium, it was cornerback Denzel Ward's coast-to-coast pick-six. On Monday night, it was the ubiquitous Myles Garrett tipping a first down pass headed to the wide-open Tee Higgins for another first down in the red zone.
Instead, the other A.J. Green picked it off at the Browns 16. That was after Burrow had them rolling with diverse third-down conversions to running back Chris Evans of 26 yards and slot receiver Tyler Boyd of 14.
"If we score there," Boyd said. "It's different. That's how we've been playing, coming out fast."
Burrow pointed to later in the first half, after the defense produced strong safety Vonn Bell's NFL-leading fourth interception and then linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither's first NFL fumble recovery.
"Defense gets two turnovers and we really don't do anything with it," Burrow said. "And Myles makes a great play on an RPO. Gets his hands up and knocks it down, ends up falling right into him. That was really the start of a long day for us."
When they spit out the stats Tuesday morning, the Bengals receivers are going to have next-to-nothing YAC. The Browns were terrific tackling, particularly on Burrow's checkdowns to running backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine.
"They did a great job in their leverages and playing soft and making us check it down," Burrow said. "They tackled really well. The last couple of weeks, we got teams out of that because we were able to break some tackles, and we got yards after the catch. You have to give them credit. They were great tacklers today."
SLANTS AND SCREENS: Taylor said the game began to unravel at the end of the half when Bengals kicker Evan McPherson missed a 47-yard field goal and by the time the Bengals had run "three bad plays … we were down, 25-0 just like that."
Cade York kicked a 55-yard field goal to end the half and the Browns opened the second half with two touchdown drives sandwiched around a Bengals three-and-out, which is how you go from down 8-0 to 25-0 running just three plays. The last play, a third-and-six, was a sack by linebacker Deion Jones looping around Garrett on the left edge …
Hilton said the Bengals are treating the short week prepping for Carolina at Paycor Stadium this Sunday in the game before the bye recalling they went into last year's bye at 5-4 …
Hubbard, who missed a few plays early in the second half with what he said was a mangled finger, was immense with nine tackles, a sack and a forced fumble