Adding Jackson to the staff as a defensive assistant just two weeks after the Browns fired him on Oct. 29th backfired for the Bengals, at least in this game.
The Browns, fired up to beat their deposed coach whom they knew was giving away their state secrets, scored touchdowns on their first four drives to take a 28-0 lead n the second quarter before the Bengals finally scored a TD of their own to cut the deficit to 28-7 at the half.
The Bengals rallied after an injured Andy Dalton (thumb) was replaced by Jeff Driskel in the third quarter, but it was too little, too late.
By the end, Baker Mayfield had four TD passes, the Browns avoided tying the NFL record with 26-straight road losses with their first road win since Oct. 11, 2015, and they won back-to-back games for the first time since November of 2014.
The victory improved the Browns to 4-6-1 in 11 games — 2-1 under Gregg Williams — and kept their slim playoff hopes alive. The four victories were the most by the Browns since they went 7-9 in 2014. The Bengals, who have lost five of their last six, slipped to 5-6.
But the scene that summed it up for the Browns came just after free safety Damarious Randall picked off Dalton with 9:09 left in the half and the Browns up 21-0. Remember, it was Randall who proclaimed on Friday that if the Browns didn’t have A.J. Green ‘they’re getting their ass beat.’
Well, the Bengals were without Green, and Randall and his teammates backed up his tough talk. After the pick, which happened right in front of Jackson on the Bengals’ sideline, Randall walked over and handed the ball to Jackson, who nonchalantly took it and patted Randall on the head.
Feeling his bold prediction, Randall then blew a kiss to the Bengals bench.
But Randall wasn’t the only one who popped off before the game. Fellow safety Jabrill Peppers also said he wished Jackson the best “but we’re still going to go out and kick their ass.’’
It seemed a bit risky for a team that had lost 25 straight on the road and four of their last five games to be inciting the Bengals like that. But it seemed to fire up the Browns more than it did the Bengals.
The game — and the ball — got away from the Bengals two plays into the second half, and the Browns cashed in. Center Billy Price sailed the snap over Dalton’s head, and Emmanuel Ogbah recovered at the Cincy 7. Two plays later, with Dalton walking to the locker room with an injured thumb from that play, Mayfield found tight end Darren Fells in the back right corner of the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown that made it 35-7 with 12:56 left in the third quarter.
Bengals backup quarterback Jeff Driskel took over for Dalton for good after that, and threw a 28-yard touchdown to Tyler Boyd with 4:56 left in the third to narrow the gap to 35-14.
The Bengals, owners of the NFL’s 32nd-ranked defense, were also without starting cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and starting left tackle Cordy Glenn. By the third quarter, they were not only down to their backup QB, but their third-string left tackle when backup Jake Fisher left with an injury.
Having Jackson assisting on defense did nothing to stop the Bengals’ hemorrhaging on that side of the ball.
The Browns got the ball first, and Mayfield (19-of-26, 258 yards, 4 TDs, 143.9 rating) marched the Browns 78-yard in 10 play, capped by a 1-yard run by Nick Chubb (28 carries, 84 yards, 1 TD; three catches, 44 yards, 1 TD catch). Mayfield went 6-of-6 on the drive for 71 yards and a 116.0 rating.
Myles Garrett then blocked a 54-yard field goal attempt to spoil the Bengals’ opening drive. The Browns took over at their 44, and going to the hurry-up offense, Mayfield found Antonio Callaway in the back left of the end zone for a 13-yard TD pass.
The defense got another stop, and Mayfield hit tight end David Njoku (5 catches, 63 yards 1 TD) with a short pass at the Bengals’ 4, where he tried to leap into the end zone. Instead, he was caught by safety Jessie Bates, and had to be pushed into the end zone by Chris Hubbard, JC Tretter and others. Joel Bitonio got to spike the ball in a group version of the Chief Slam.
Randall got the pick on the second play of the next drive, and the Browns cashed in again, with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Mayfield to Chubb. On the score, Chubb plucked the ball off the back of safety Brandon Wilson before falling into the end zone. That made it 28-0 with 2:25 left in the half.
In just his eighth career start, Mayfield passed Tim Couch (15 in 1999) for the most touchdown passes by a Browns rookie. He’s also thrown multiple touchdowns in each of his last five starts first quarterback to do so since Vinny Testaverde in 1994-95.
The drama started before the game when Jackson went around hugging and shaking hands with members of his former team. Some embraced him enthusiastically, such as backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor and punter Britton Colquitt, while others only shook his hand and left it at that - including Mayfield.
Jackson also walked over to the Browns bench before the game and shook hands with Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, who’s paying him at least through next season.
Jackson was hired by Marvin Lewis to help out with the defense on Nov. 12, and has gone 0-2 on his new job. CBS Sports' Jason LaCanfora reported before the game that Jackson could be in line to replace Lewis as Bengals' head coach.