The Cleveland Browns‘ postseason hopes are still alive after a 27-19 win on Sunday over the Cincinnati Bengals.
Here are 10 thoughts about round one of the “Battle of Ohio.”
1. The Browns’ playoff hopes are alive…barely.
The New York Times estimates the Browns have an 8-percent chance to make the postseason even with the victory over the Bengals.
Cleveland (6-7) still needs plenty of help if it wants to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2002 season.
— Mark Bergin (@mdbergin) December 8, 2019
2. An overturned defensive pass interference penalty against the Bengals might have swung the outcome of the game.
It appeared the Bengals intercepted Baker Mayfield for the third time Sunday after a forced pass to Odell Beckham Jr. during the fourth quarter.
However, the referees determined after a replay review that cornerback William Jackson III committed a pass interference penalty. It gave Cleveland a first down.
Jackson did make contact with Beckham before the pass arrived, but it’s the type of call referees don’t typically overturn.
Most times this season, the referees have stuck with the pass interference call or non-call on the field.
The penalty gave the Browns a first down.
Minutes later, Mayfield connected with Jarvis Landry on 34-yard screen pass to convert on 3rd down and 10.
Bengals coach Zac Taylor challenged the play for offensive pass interference, arguing Browns tight end Stephen Carlson was blocking before Landry caught the pass.
The referees upheld the non-call.
The drive resulted in a 31-yard field goal by Austin Seibert, and it put the game out of reach.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) December 8, 2019
3. Cincinnati is still the favorite to get the No. 1 overall pick.
The Bengals (1-12) still have the worst record in the NFL, meaning they would be awarded the No. 1 overall of the 2020 NFL Draft.
If they keep what could become the first overall pick, the team will likely choose between LSU quarterback Joe Burrow and Ohio State defensive end Chase Young.
Two other teams — the New York Giants (2-10) and the Miami Dolphins (3-10) — also have double digit losses so far this season.
Whether Cincinnati gets the first overall pick could come down to the regular-season finale on Dec. 29, when the Browns and Bengals play again.
4. Freddie Kitchens decided not to use a timeout in the first half.
The Browns had about 31 seconds left in the first half with the defense holding the Bengals on a 3rd-and-20 play to force a fourth down.
Kitchens did not use a timeout with the ball on the Bengals’ 24-yard line. Had he taken one, the following play could have resulted in a muffed punt, a blocked punt, a punt return touchdown or an offensive drive with two timeouts.
Yet again under Kitchens, the Browns mismanaged the clock.
Good coaches put their teams in the best possible position to win games.
Why not give your team another chance to score instead of going into halftime with three unused timeouts? It’s inexcusable.
5. Nick Chubb surpassed 100 yards for the sixth game this season.
The Bengals entered the game allowing 157.6 rushing yards per game, the most in the NFL.
Cincinnati limited Cleveland to 30 yards rushing in the first half. The Bengals limited Chubb to 7 rushing yards in the first half on three carries.
In the first half, the Browns had 16 passing plays and eight running plays.
Kitchens decided to run the ball in the second half. For the game, the Browns had 27 rushing plays and 24 passing plays.
The Browns finished with 146 yards rushing, including 106 rushing yards from Chubb on 15 carries.
Chubb broke off a 57-yard run at the start of the second half, which set up a Kareem Hunt rushing touchdown.
— NFL (@NFL) December 8, 2019
6. The Browns won the penalty battle.
The Bengals had eight penalties for 99 yards allowed and the Browns had six penalties for 30 yards allowed.
Cincinnati entered Sunday’s game allowing 45 penalty yards per game, the fewest in the NFL. Cleveland entered the game allowing 77.16 penalty yards per game, the most in the NFL.
7. Baker Mayfield’s turnover woes continue.
Mayfield finished 11-of-24 passing for 192 yards and he threw two interceptions. His 16 interceptions this season surpasses last year’s total of 14.
Last year, Mayfield did not throw an interception in two victories over the Bengals.
Entering Sunday’s game, only Jameis Winston and Philip Rivers had more interceptions thrown than Mayfield.
8. Denzel Ward’s pick six marked his first interception of the season.
Ward’s last interception came Oct. 7, 2018, against the Baltimore Ravens.
Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said in November he wants more out of the second-year corner, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie a season ago.
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton threw a slant pass behind receiver Auden Tate. Ward got the deflection and took it to the house.
It marked Ward’s first touchdown of his NFL career.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) December 8, 2019
9. The referees made a terrible call on the Browns’ opening drive, ruling on the field that David Njoku fumbled.
However, the league decided to change Njoku’s fumble to an interception.
After the initial replay review, the refs ruled Bengals linebacker Nick Vigil recovered a fumble after ripping the ball away from Njoku. How the referees ruled it was a fumble made no sense. It’s why the league changed the call to an interception later in the game.
Browns fans could argue the refs should have ruled Njoku caught the ball and went down while wrestling Vigil for the ball. The tie should have gone to Njoku, the offensive player.
Perhaps the refs felt there was not conclusive video evidence to overturn the on-field call.
Njoku played for the first time on Sunday since injuring his wrist in Week 2.
This was ruled a catch & fumble on the field and then changed to an interception after the officials reviewed it. Njoku is clearly laying on his back (down) when the defender rips the ball from his hands.
— Roberto Shenanigans (@Rob_Shenanigans) December 8, 2019
10. Next up: The Browns play the Arizona Cardinals.
While the Cardinals are 3-8-1 on the season, they are 7-4-1 against the spread.
We’ll see how the Cardinals fare on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Arizona has a 1-4-1 record at home this season.