Rapid Reaction: Cincinnati Bengals

November, 17, 2013
11/17/13
4:30
PM ET

CINCINNATI -- A few thoughts on the Cincinnati Bengals' 41-20 victory against the Cleveland Browns.

What it means: After getting derailed in their two previous games, the Bengals showed glimpses of their former selves in Sunday's blowout against the Browns. From a scoring perspective, they had a truly complete game, getting touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams. It was their best team performance since their 49-9 Week 8 home victory against the New York Jets. Even though quarterback Andy Dalton still struggled to get into a rhythm and play like the signal-caller who breezed through October, he still threw three touchdowns. Most importantly, though, Sunday's victory extended the Bengals' AFC North lead to 2 1/2 games over the Browns, who entered in a second-place tie with the Baltimore Ravens. If the Ravens beat the Chicago Bears -- their weather-delayed game didn't end until after the Bengals-Browns tilt -- Cincinnati's lead remains 1 1/2 games over them.

Stock watch: Bengals special teams: rising. Bengals special teams coach Darrin Simmons has been hinting much of the season at how he believed his various units were making progress. That progress was quite visible against the Browns when his punt return team tipped one punt, blocked another (returning it for a touchdown) and set up a 27-yard return that was the longest of the season for Adam Jones. Add in punter Kevin Huber's 44.6 punting average and Mike Nugent's two made field goals, and it's clear Cincinnati's special teams had their best single-game showing of the season.

Momentum changer: Early in the game, it appeared the Bengals were headed for a third straight loss. They spotted the Browns 13 points in the first quarter, and even gave up a defensive touchdown when cornerback Joe Haden jumped a pass route on A.J. Green and sprinted in for a 29-yard interception return for a touchdown. With 44 seconds remaining in the period, though, the momentum shifted. Bengals linebacker James Harrison tried to replicate Haden, tipping a Jason Campbell pass to himself and breaking tackles and pirouetting into the end zone. A penalty after the interception took away the touchdown, but it wouldn't matter. The Bengals ended up scoring on the ensuing possession, kicking off a string of 31 unanswered Bengals points. Their 31 points in the second quarter marked a franchise record for points in a single quarter.

What's Next? The Bengals (7-4) will have two weeks off before going for their second straight win. They'll spend the next 14 days rehabbing minor injuries and getting refocused for their final five games of the regular season. That end-of-year stretch begins Dec. 1 when they travel to San Diego.

Coley Harvey

ESPN Cincinnati Bengals reporter

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