It was an easy win, but the Cincinnati Bengals earned it. With their 16-7 victory over the Cleveland Browns today, the Bengals pulled off an amazing feat -- they swept the AFC North with two wins each over the Steelers, Ravens and Browns. Of those teams, the first two were the only ones with any real competitive juice -- the Browns are now 1-10, and that record doesn't really indicate how bad they are. After putting up video game numbers against the Lions, quarterback Brady Quinn(notes) was dragged back down to earth by Cincinnati's tenacious D. Quinn completed 15 of 34 passes for 100 yards and a rushing touchdown, while Cleveland's defense allowed Larry Johnson(notes) to gain 107 yards on 22 carries and Bernard Scott(notes) to put up 87 yards on 18 tries. It was Johnson's first 100-yard game since Week 15 of the 2008 season, and only the fourth in his last two seasons.
The Bengals played it close to the vest all day because they could. Carson Palmer(notes) attempted only 24 passes, and the idea was clearly to let the Browns beat themselves. Of course, any team "coached" by Eric Mangini will do its best to cooperate. Up 10-0 already at the end of the first half, the Bengals were gifted with an extra play when Browns tackle Shaun Rogers(notes) brought Palmer down at the 50-yard line by the back of his jersey with no time left on the clock. The horse-collar call put the ball at the Cleveland 35, allowed Shayne Graham(notes) to boot a 53-yard field goal. It was the second time in two games that the Browns ended a half with a defensive penalty that gave the opposing team an extra play and a chance to score -- you may remember the pass interference call against Hank Poteat(notes) that allowed Matt Stafford to hit Brandon Pettigrew(notes) for the game-winner against the Lions. The Browns had sacked Palmer on two straight plays before today's penalty on Rogers, but it seems to be a rule -- for every positive step, a landslide must fall.
It's been a bad weekend for the Cleveland faithful -- first, the announcement that noted pariah Art Modell made the semi-finalist list for the Hall of Fame, then the realization that as bad as having Modell move the old Browns to Baltimore felt, what Mangini is doing to the new Browns may be even worse. As for the Bengals, they get to go home, settle in their respective Barca-Loungers, and watch the Steelers and Ravens beat each other up tonight for second place in the AFC North.