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Big second half helps give Browns long-awaited win

The SportsXchange

CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Browns scored 27 points in the second half, which propelled them to their first victory of the season and snapped an 11-game skid that started last season.

The Browns' second-half surge came against their AFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals for a 34-24 win on Sunday.

Cleveland's victory made a winner out of Randy Lerner in his final game as Browns majority owner. On Tuesday the NFL is holding a vote to approve the sale of the team from Lerner to Jimmy Haslam III.

The Browns scored two touchdowns 10 seconds apart midway through the fourth quarter. Brandon Weeden threw a three-yard touchdown pass to Benjamin Watson with 8:00 left and then Sheldon Brown returned an interception 19 yards for a touchdown for a 34-17 lead on the Bengals' next play.

The Bengals did not fold. Andy Dalton connected with A.J. Green for a 57-yard touchdown to make it 34-24 with 5:21 left. The Bengals got the ball back with 4:13 to play and drove to the Browns 9, but a strip sack by Emmanuel Stephens, a fumble recovery and 35-yard return for a touchdown by Billy Winn sealed the victory.

"That's why you play the game -- to have this feeling," Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. "We'll enjoy it for a few hours and get back rolling and get ready to play the (Indianapolis) Colts."

The Browns also got a touchdown from Montario Hardesty and two field goals from Phil Dawson in their highest scoring half of the season.

Hardesty led the Browns with 56 yards on 15 carries. He went into Sunday's game with no carries this season.

"I've always said I love playing the game of football, so I've been preparing every week like I'm going to get in there and play," Hardesty said. "I got out there and got hit the first two times and from there I was ready to go."

It was the second straight loss for the Bengals. Dalton threw three touchdown passes, but he also threw three interceptions.

"We missed an opportunity to survive not playing well and win football games, which is a good thing when you can do that and we didn't two weeks in a row, now"," coach Marvin Lewis said. "We need to have more of a killer instinct than we're playing with."

The Bengals scored first on a 55-yard pass play from Dalton to tight end Jermaine Gresham. Gresham stiff-armed linebacker Craig Robertson, the only Browns defender that had a chance to tackle him.

"We got off to a good start, but we didn't continue to play," Lewis said.

The Browns answered 9 seconds into the second quarter on a 71-yard pass play from Weeden to Josh Gordon. Gordon got behind the Cincinnati defense and caught the pass one-handed when he stretched out his right hand to haul it in.

Cincinnati led 14-7 before halftime. Dalton threw his second touchdown pass of the game when he hit Green on a 4-yard scoring play with 1:54 left in the first half. The touchdown was set up on a 32-yard punt return by Brandon Tate.

Notes: Defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin was inactive for the Browns because of a calf injury. ... Browns wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi missed his third straight game with a hamstring injury. ... Terrance Newman started at left cornerback for the Bengals in place of Nate Clements. Clements started at strong safety in place of Taylor Mays.
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