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By Eric Szczepinski @eszczepinski2

The battle of Ohio. Primetime Thursday night. The Browns looking to show the world their legitimacy. They did exactly that with a 24-3 thumping of the rival Cincinnati Bengals. The Browns now are tied for first in the AFC North division with a 6-3 record.

The biggest individual matchup of the game featured Joe Haden guarding A.J. Green. Haden once again shut down Green, holding him to 3 catches for 23 yards. Haden has continually won the battle against Green, holding him to 7 yards and 51 yards in their two meetings last season. Haden has regained his Pro Bowl caliber play. During the last four games he has held opposing quarterbacks to 15/33 passing for 127 with 4 pass breakups. The longest reception has been for only 16 yards and he has not given up a touchdown since week 2. Pro Football Focus has graded Haden the best overall corner the last three games with a grade of +7.2. Haden is starting to live up to his huge contract and has locked up opposing receivers. Haden will have another test next Sunday against Andre Johnson and Deandre Hopkins. Also, undrafted free agent corner K’Waun Williams is the 9th rated corner the past three weeks and has been a pleasant surprise.

My key to a Browns victory on Thursday was to establish a running game, and score touchdowns off turnovers, not field goals, and take the momentum and crowd out of the game early. The Browns were able to accomplish both within the first few minutes of the game. Craig Robertson’s interception off Andy Dalton in the opening possession gave the Browns excellent field position at the Bengals 18 yard line. The Browns ran the ball five straight times leading to a Ben Tate touchdown. Within the first few minutes the Browns were able to establish the power run game and controlled the line of scrimmage for the rest of the game.

The run game was led by a solid line play, including a very good performance by  Center Nick McDonald. Terrance West led the attack with 26 carries and 94 yards. Crowell added 41 yards on 12 carries and Ben Tate rushed for 34 yards on 10 carries. All three backs scored touchdowns and Cincinnati had no way to stop our smash mouth running attack.

Brian Hoyer is a winner. He improved to 9-3 overall as the starter for the Cleveland browns. Hoyer was 15/23 passing for 198 yards Thursday night. But don’t let the stats fool you. Hoyer played an excellent game. He made all the correct throws and had an efficient passer rating of 92.Given a solid run game and great field position, Hoyer was able to lead the offense on three scoring drives. Scoring touchdowns is exactly what the Browns offense needed to win and eventually put the game away.

With a stunning 24-3 blowout over rival Cincinnati the Browns have taken the top spot in the AFC North race. Also, they broke the 17 game losing streak on the road against AFC North opponents. Your Cleveland Browns are 6-3 and have set themselves up for an exciting stretch run. STAT OF THE DAY: Teams that start 6-3 make the playoffs 73% of the time. Oh Baby!! Get Ready for January Football Cleveland! GO BROWNS!

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