The Cleveland Browns had a pretty simple game plan against Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals last Thursday: don’t let the receivers get open.
“On the back end, we was just trying to cover their receivers as tight as (we) could,” Browns cornerback Buster Skrine said on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “We’ve played Andy a couple times, and our secondary, every time we cover his receivers tight, he’s a little inaccurate. And our front seven did a great job getting in his face, too, and putting a lot of pressure on him. That was our game plan.”
It worked. The Browns harassed Dalton into 10-of-33 passing for 86 yards and three interceptions – two courtesy of Skrine – in a 24-3 win. They also limited the Bengals to 165 total yards.
“As a defense, we just wanted to show the world if our team plays together as a team, we can beat this team,” Skrine said. “There was a lot of questions coming into this game that we haven’t played anybody yet because we had a couple of teams with losing records three games before that. This is just a statement game – to show everybody we are a good team and we can beat anybody when we play together.”
Indeed, the Browns (6-3) are now in first place in the AFC North – ahead of Cincinnati (5-3-1), Pittsburgh (6-4) and Baltimore (6-4).
Cleveland dominated Cincinnati from whistle to whistle, taking a 17-3 lead into halftime and holding the Bengals scoreless in the second half.
“Coach Pettine always preaches (execution) and being really good on the mental side,” Skrine said. “We did that (against the Bengals). Just being out there, executing the plays – it really helped us out.”
The Browns are off to their best start in 20 years and snapped a 17-game losing streak against division opponents on the road. Their previous road win in the AFC North came Sept. 28, 2008 – also against Cincinnati.
“Coach Pettine brought it up,” Skrine said. “We took that as a challenge to change things around.”
The Browns have won three straight and five six and have a series of winnable games upcoming: against Houston (4-5), at Atlanta (3-6) and at Buffalo (5-4). Still, Skrine knows that there’s still a lot of football left to be played, and the Browns cannot rest on their laurels or get complacent.
“As a team, we have a lot of games to play,” he said. “A lot can go right, a lot can go wrong. We’re going to continue to build off of this momentum and just continue to improve as a team. We just want to build off of it and be a solid team. I feel like we’re for real this year.”