Browns 23, Bengals 20, OT
Yep. You read it here first. We know the Browns always lose the games we think they're going to win, then turn around and win the games we think they have no shot of winning.
Here is how I see today's game playing out:
After a shameful performance in Week 1, the offensive line comes out determined in the first quarter, providing enought blocking to allow Charlie Frye to lead them to an opening touchdown drive and a 7-0 lead.
The Bengals counter with a first-quarter drive that nets a field goal to cut the lead to 7-3.
Early in the second quarter, D'Qwell Jackson, through pure dumb luck, reaches into the air and finds a Carson Palmer pass. He picks it off and races into Bengal territory.
With the shortened field, Frye is able to dink and dunk his way down to the Cincinnati 15. Reuben Droughns finds some daylight on a second-and-10 run and gets down to the Bengal four to set up an first-and-goal. After Droughns is stuffed on first down and a pass falls incomplete on second down, Frye rolls right on another pass attempt. His protection fails, the play breaks down and Frye is forced to run for it. He flings himself toward the goal line, cracking helmets with a Cincy defender. The ball barely grazes the goal line. The refs signal touchdown. Marvin Lewis challenges, but after seven minutes of review, the call stands and the Browns go up 10-3.
The bad news: Frye suffers a concussion. He is sent to the locker room with an unknown status.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Bengals get a great return to the Cleveland 45. Cincy sets up their two-minute drill with time winding down in the first half. On a second-down pass from the Cleveland 18, Palmer finds Chad Johnson in the corner of the end zone despite the best efforts of Leigh Bodden, who had been doing his usual solid effort on Johnson.
To celebrate the touchdown, Johnson puts a wig on the football, calls a minister out of the stands, and performs a mock wedding ceremony on the goal line. The Bengals are penalized 15 yards on the ensuing kickoff, but the Browns take a knee, content to go into the locker room with a 10-10 tie.
Ken Dorsey, subbing for the injured Frye, takes the Browns first possession of the second half and thanks in large part to a 35-yard scapmer by Jerome Harrison, is able to drive the Browns into field goal range. Phil Dawson connects on a 40-yarder for a 13-10 Cleveland lead.
But then it starts to fall apart.
On the Browns' next possession, Dorsey looks like, well ... Dorsey. After a dropped pass by Braylon Edwards and badly overshooting Kellen Winslow Jr., Dorsey tries to force another pass into double coverage and it's picked off and returned deep into Browns territory.
Rudi Johnson deposits the ball in the end zone two plays later for the Bengals' first lead, 17-13.
After another three-and-out for the Browns, the Bengals start the fourth quarter by driving into the red zone, but the Browns' defense digs its collective heels in and forces a field goal to make it 20-13. It turns out to be a pivotal moment in the game.
After a Bengals punt with a little over five minutes to play, Charlie Frye comes trotting back onto the field. Inspired, the Browns buckle down. Winslow nabs a pair of key third-down passes and Droughns grinds out some tough yards. The Browns get down to the Cincy five as the two-minute warning arrives. The Bengals stuff the Browns on three straight plays. It's fourth-and-goal from the four with a little over a minute to play. Once again, the Browns have Frye roll right. Just like in the second quarter, the play breaks down, nothing is there and Frye is forced to run for it. He cuts back, lunges toward the goal line, and this time, makes it over with ease. The game is tied 20-20.
Palmer frantically tries to drive down the field, but can't get into decent field goal range. He heaves a hail mary pass as time expires, but it's batted down on the Cleveland five.
Cincinnati wins the coin toss to start overtime. Cincy drives for what looks like the game winner. Four minutes in to overtime, they set up kicker Shayne Graham for what looks like the winning 44-yarder, but the snap is bobbled and Graham pushes the ball wide right.
The Browns take over, Frye hits Winslow for a key 17-yard completion, and the Browns are able to drive well within Dawson's field goal range. With a little over eight minutes to play in overtime, Dawson nails a 37-yarder for the 23-20 win, and a huge weight is lifted off the Browns' shoulders.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it. If any part of this is wrong, may the egg on my face come in the form of a Sausage McMuffin.