CLEVELAND - Three teams are in a logjam for first place in the AFC North, and for the first time in a long time, the Cleveland Browns are part of it.
Brian Hoyer engineered two long scoring drives that started inside the 10-yard-line Sunday in a convincing 17-6 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in FirstEnergy Stadium.
The Browns and Bengals are 2-2, and so are the Ravens after they lost at Buffalo.
It was Hoyer's second start after taking over for injured Brandon Weeden. Hoyer threw three touchdown passes last week when the Browns beat the Vikings in Minnesota, 31-27.
"Brian is very confident and the team feeds off that," Cleveland tight end Jordan Cameron said.
The Bengals made too many mistakes in the second half against the Browns potent defense. A botched snap with the Browns leading 10-6 in the third quarter turned a first-and-10 into a-second and-25. The Bengals did not respond and were forced to punt.
"When we had our chances, we didn't take advantage of them," Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton said.
The Bengals still had a chance after a 1-yard touchdown pass from Hoyer to Chris Ogbonnaya made the score 17-6 with 4:54 left, but a pass from Dalton intended for tight end Tyler Eifert was intercepted by Buster Skrine.
What the Bengals said
"There were times when they covered (A.J. Green) well and some others that I could have made some better throws." - Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton.
What the Browns said
"We feed off each other. We feed off the crowd. We feed off the energy of the game." -- Linebacker Barkevious Mingo.
What we learned about the Bengals
1. The Bengals have to find a way to cut down on critical mistakes if they are going to fulfill their role as favorites to win the AFC North. The biggest gaffe Sunday occurred on first-and-10 on the Browns 41. A botched snap with Dalton under center resulted in a 14-yard loss. The Bengals were fortunate Giovani Bernard recovered, but they had to punt two plays later.
2. The Bengals played without two starters in the secondary, and it showed. The Browns converted nine of 18 third downs, and Brian Hoyer completed 10 passes to Cameron. The Bengals need safety Reggie Nelson and cornerback Leon Hall back ASAP.
What we learned about the Browns
1. Brian Hoyer looks like the real deal at quarterback, but coach Rob Chudzinski insists he'll evaluate the situation week to week. Hoyer earned his stripes with touchdown drives of 95 and 91 yards. Each consumed 12 plays and more than six minutes of game clock.
2. Joe Haden came up short in his dealings with Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green, but he had his best game against his rival Sunday, holding Green to seven catches for 51 yards. Haden is having the best season of his career. He is matched up with the opponent's top receiver each week.