Picking off Cleveland quarterback Charlie Frye four times, the Bengals held a team scoreless for the first time since 1989 as Carson Palmer threw three touchdown passes and Cincinnati embarrassed the bickering Browns 30-0 on Sunday.
Palmer finished 25-of-32 for 275 yards and connected with Chris Henry for two TD passes as the Bengals (6-5) stayed firmly in the AFC playoff race by beating Cleveland for a record fifth straight time.
Cincinnati came in with the NFL’s lowest-ranked defense, allowing 378 yards per game. You’d have never known it.
Before piling up yardage during extended garbage time in the fourth quarter, the Browns (3-8) had only 167 yards—21 rushing—after three quarters. By then, they were down 30-0 and on their way to dropping to 1-5 at home.
In a season of low points, the Browns have hit rock bottom.
“This is pretty low,” said coach Romeo Crennel, 9-18 in two seasons with Cleveland. “Last year I was pretty low, too. I wasn’t really expecting this.”
The shutout was the Bengals’ first since Dec. 3, 1989, a span of 269 games. That one also came against the Browns, who capped a turbulent week with a troubling loss that included a sideline tantrum by Edwards.
Following an interception, Edwards approached Frye and the two exchanged words. At one point, a heated Edwards grabbed Frye by his jersey and teammates moved in between them to calm things down.
Edwards continued to rant about something as Frye turned his back and walked back to the bench.
Earlier this week, Edwards criticized Cleveland’s conservative play calling and then blasted teammate Brian Russell for his hard hit on Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson when Cincinnati beat Cleveland 34-17 on Sept. 17.
Edwards didn’t make any friends with his comments, and his latest antics could cause a rift with Browns fans and Frye, who was sacked four times and roughed up all afternoon.
“Me and Braylon are fine,” Frye said. “Our biggest opponent right now is us. We have to get on the same page and fight together. We have to stop fighting each other and start playing against the other team. If not, we are not going to win many games.”
Edwards declined to comment after the game. After getting dressed, he left the locker room, pausing to slap Frye on the backside before exiting.
Frye went 18-of-29 for 186 yards. Edwards had two catches for 29 yards.
Crennel dismissed Edwards’ behavior as “a young guy, a fiery competitor who wants this team to do good.”
About the only positive for the Browns was keeping Johnson out of the end zone. Cincinnati’s fun-loving playmaker had promised to leap into Cleveland’s notorious Dawg Pound to celebrate his score.
That didn’t happen, but Johnson finished with seven catches for 123 yards, giving him 573 in the past three games.
“I don’t think this game was so much easy as we executed,” Johnson said. “We took what they gave us. We just came in and got a win.”
Palmer, who has thrown three TD passes in each of his last three games, tossed his third TD on the first play of the fourth quarter, a 10-yarder to Henry, to put Cincinnati ahead 30-0.
In the third quarter, Palmer hooked up with T.J. Houshmandzadeh on a 6-yard strike to make it 23-0. Cleveland fans cheered sarcastically when the Bengals missed the extra point, one of the few Browns highlights.
The Bengals made it look easy from the outset, scoring on three of their four possessions in opening a 17-0 halftime lead.
With all kinds of time to throw, Palmer picked apart Cleveland’s injury-depleted secondary. He went 16-of-20 for 175 yards in the opening half as the Bengals racked up 15 first downs and only punted once.
Palmer, though, was more impressed by Cincinnati’s defense, which held the Browns to 203 yards and forced five turnovers.
“The defense was huge,” he said. “They got us fired up. We were jumping around with every turnover. Our defense has taken a lot of criticism, so for them to get this shutout is huge. I can’t remember when we got a shutout.”
The Browns, who have a nasty habit of starting poorly, began on a sour note when Joshua Cribbs returned the opening kickoff 101 yards, but had the TD negated on a holding call.
Browns defensive coordinator Todd Grantham issued a “no comment” through the team following a report he has accepted Michigan State’s coaching vacancy. … Bengals RB Chris Perry broke his right leg during the second quarter. Coach Marvin Lewis said Perry will undergo surgery to have a screw inserted. … Browns RT Ryan Tucker, who missed two games with an undisclosed illness, did not play in the second half. The team cited his previous condition as the reason. … Browns DT Orpheus Roye injured his knee in the second quarter and did not return.