Rey Maualuga went the whole way despite an injured knee he suffered last week against Pittsburgh. (AP photo)
Posted: 7:05 a.m.
CLEVELAND - A couple of trends that emerged in the Bengals? first three games kept going Sunday in the 23-20 overtime victory.
The defense kept coming up big inside the 20. After the Browns got the ball in the red zone in the second half on Bengals wide receiver Andre Caldwell?s fumble on a kickoff (the 18) and Browns wide receiver Josh Cribbs? 50-yard punt return (the 14), the Bengals allowed field goals instead of touchdowns to fall behind 20-14 instead of 28-14.
Strong safety Chinedum Ndukwe, starting in place of the injured Roy Williams, came up with stops on second-and-three and third-and-one to force a field goal, and in the fourth quarter right end Antwan Odom came up with his eighth sack and WILL linebacker Keith Rivers dropped Browns running back Jerome Harrison on a two-yard loss for one of his team-high 10 tackles.
Harrison did ring up 121 yards on 29 carries for the first 100-yard game of his career and the Browns? first since 2007. But he only got 25 yards on his last nine carries in the fourth quarter and overtime.
?We just weren?t going to let them get anything; we played better,? said rookie SAM linebacker Rey Maualuga, who played all the way despite his sprained MCL. ?No easy games in the NFL, I guess that?s what I?m finding out.?
It was a bit of an emotional game for Maualuga. Like his fellow Samoans Domata Peko and Jonathan Fanene, he wore a native skirt and a shell necklace during the road trip to show solidarity with his fellow countrymen coping with the devastating earthquake on American Samoa. Maualuga wore the skirt of his late father whom died of cancer while the younger Maualuga was in college.
The Bengals indicated they made some changes in their positioning after the Browns were lined up and their strategy of taking away wide receiver Braylon Edwards worked. Rookie receiver Mohamed Massaquoi went off for a career 148-yard day, but Edwards had no catches.
?We had to mix coverages on him,? said cornerback Leon Hall, who had Edwards much of the day. ?Most of it was one-on-one, but we did roll up on him some of the time. We had to keep him back on his heels.?
Ndukwe, who had one of the two Bengals sacks, dialed up the blitz in the fourth quarter and OT to pressure Harrison and quarterback Derek Anderson and Anderson misfired on 23 of 49 passes.
?That was the game plan; take away Braylon,? Ndukwe said. ?We didn?t want him to beat us because he can hurt you with the long ball so quickly.?
Cornerback Johnathan Joseph repeated what he did last week against Pittsburgh when he gave up another long ball in the first half by letting Massaquoi get behind him on third-and-short for a 29-yarder that set up the Browns' first touchdown. But like he did last week when he returned a 30-yard interception for a touchdown in the second minute of the second half, Joesph came up with another big interception on the second half's first series when he stepped in front of tight end Steve Heiden on a third-down pass at the goal line.
The Bengals got another defensive touchdown Sunday when Hall came up on the run and ripped the ball out of Harrison's hands so it popped up in the air. Left end Robert Geathers plucked it and went 75 yards for the score.
The Bengals offense comes and goes mysteriously. They racked up 151 yards on the first two drives in the first quarter, then gave up an interception and six three-and-outs before the final 70-yard drive in regulation.
And they got nothing in overtime until the final drive as running back Cedric Benson managed 74 yards on 18 carries, but most of that came late. And tight J.P. Foschi, who the Bengals picked off the cut list in training camp, was the team's leading receiver with three catches for 44 yards.
Palmer broke it down as such: The Bengals couldn?t run the ball effectively and the Browns hung there in a Cover 2 and ?they did a good job getting their hands? on the Bengals wide receivers on the outside routes.
Both Palmer and wide receiver Chad Ochocinco said they can?t play like that in Baltimore next Sunday.
?(Our defense) is tired and worn down and we really need to help them going to Baltimore,? Palmer said. ?We didn?t keep them off the field enough ... they kept us in the game again. I love the way they play.?
The Ocho, whose two of three catches went for touchdowns, said, ?What we did today is not going to work next week. This won?t fly next week.?
The Ocho wasn?t surprised when head coach Marvin Lewis chose to go for the win on fourth-and-11 from the Cleveland 41 in OT.
?The way we?ve been in the clutch the last couple of weeks, no,? The Ocho said. ?I saw (Palmer) go back out on the field and I said, ?Here we go again.? ?
Palmer on his two-yard flip to The Ocho for the tying TD: ?They dropped everybody. I think they dropped eight into coverage and the line stayed on their blocks. When they drop eight into coverage and they?re only rushing three, it gets tough once the quarterback starts moving around. We stayed on our blocks and Chad did a good job of getting open and catching my attention with those pink gloves.?