The Cincinnati Bengals (7-4) overcame a dismal start to defeat the Cleveland Browns (4-6), 41-20, Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.
After falling behind 13-0, Cincinnati scored 31 points straight points in the second quarter with the help of blocked punt and fumble return touchdowns.
Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton threw two first quarter interceptions, both to Cleveland cornerback Joe Haden. The second was returned for a touchdown, and it looked like the Bengals were on the verge of losing their third straight game.
On Cleveland’s next possession, veteran linebacker James Harrison intercepted quarterback Jason Campbell and bulled his way into the endzone. An illegal block in the back negated the touchdown but gave Cincinnati the ball at Cleveland’s 22-yard line. That set up Dalton’s 25-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jermaine Gresham.
Bengals safety Shawn Williams tipped a Spencer Lanning punt on the ensuing Browns drive, giving the Bengals excellent field position.
Cincinnati wide receiver Mohamed Sanu connected with running back Giovani Bernard on a trick play for 25 yards. Three plays later, Sanu was on the receiving end, hauling in a six-yard touchdown from Dalton.
Another blocked Lanning punt, this time by safety Tony Dye, would be returned by Dye for a touchdown.
The Bengals would capitalize on another Browns mistake, with linebacker Vontaze Burfict striping the ball from Chris Ogbonnaya and returning it for a touchdown, making the score 28-13. A Mike Nugent field goal at the end of the half would give the Bengals a franchise record 31 points in the second quarter.
The Bengals were able to overcome another rough outing by Dalton, who passed for only 93 yards on 27 attempts. His two interceptions give him eight in his last three games.
Nonetheless, Cincinnati saw more than its share of big plays on special teams to help push them over the top.
The Bengals have proved that their defense can carry them at home, where they are now 5-0.
But on the road, where they are 2-4, they will need to get more out of their third year quarterback.
Cincinnati is off next week, but is scheduled to return to action Dec. 1 at San Diego.