What it means: The Bengals broke their NFL-high 10-game losing streak against the same team that started it in October. Despite plenty of speculation about the future of the coaching staff and key players, Cincinnati stayed focused and improved to 3-11. Meanwhile, this is another ugly loss for the Browns (5-9), who have now fallen to the woeful Bengals and Bills in back-to-back weeks. Cleveland head coach Eric Mangini is on the hot seat and these two losses will weigh heavily against him in the eyes of Browns president Mike Holmgren.
What I liked: With the cold weather, Cincinnati went back to last year's formula that made the team successful. Bengals tailback Cedric Benson looked energized and rushed for a season-high 150 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries. Cincinnati also got rare contributions from young receivers Andre Caldwell (four catches for 89 yards) and Jerome Simpson (two catches for 30 yards), who have been M.I.A. this season. For Cleveland, rookie quarterback Colt McCoy handled the winter conditions pretty well and completed 19 of 25 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns. Browns receiver Brian Robiskie also had his second quality game of the season with five catches for 82 yards and a touchdown.
What I didn't like: For one of the few times this season, Cleveland was physically dominated in the trenches. The Browns couldn't stop Cincinnati's running game and couldn't run the ball effectively on offense, which was the difference in this game. Peyton Hillis ran for just 59 yards, as the Browns had just one rushing first down in the game. There's not much to dislike from the Bengals' perspective after finally getting back in the win column, other than the fact that winning hurts the team's draft position.
What's next: The Bengals will host the San Diego Chargers in the final home game of the season at Paul Brown Stadium. Barring an unexpected surge in ticket sales, it will be the fourth consecutive home blackout in Cincinnati. The Browns will end the season with back-to-back home games against AFC North rivals. First, Cleveland will host the Baltimore Ravens on Dec. 26, then end the season against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Jan. 2.