(AP) Hoyer guides Browns past Bengals 17-6
By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer
Like he always pretended to do his backyard, Brian Hoyer guided the Browns to victory.
Hoyer, the local kid who always dreamed of being Cleveland’s quarterback, threw two touchdown passes in his first start at home to lead the Browns to a 17-6 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
Hoyer’s 1-yard TD pass to Chris Ogbonnaya with 4:54 left gave the Browns (2-2) an 11-point lead and Cleveland turned it over to its vastly improved defense.
In his second start in place of injured Brandon Weeden, Hoyer finished 25 of 38 for 269 yards and no interceptions. He threw a 2-yard TD pass in the first half to tight end Jordan Cameron, who had 10 catches for 91 yards.
The Bengals (2-2) couldn’t get anything going on offense and Andy Dalton was intercepted by Buster Skrine with 3:43 left, ending any chance of a comeback.
Cleveland limited the Bengals to 63 rushing yards and cornerback Joe Haden contained wide receiver A.J. Green.
Hoyer began the season as Cleveland’s No. 3 quarterback. But after Weeden went down with a sprained right thumb, Browns coach Rob Chudzinski named Hoyer his starter, jumping him ahead of backup Jason Campbell on the depth chart.
Last week, Hoyer threw three touchdowns to rally the Browns to a 31-27 win at Minnesota. Weeden began throwing the ball again this week, but wasn’t able to play. Now, he could be relegated to watching Hoyer from the sideline for the remainder of the season.
Clinging to a 10-6 lead, Hoyer drove the Browns 91 yards for the clinching score.
Hoyer showed gorgeous touch on a 31-yard pass to Cameron to put the Browns at Cincinnati’s 24. Willis McGahee, who promised a “dramatic” improvement in Cleveland’s running game this week, carried three times to get the ball to the 1 and Hoyer took it from there, throwing his second TD to Ogbonnaya.
Once Ogbonnaya crossed the goal line, Hoyer, who grew up going to Browns games with his dad at old Cleveland Stadium, ran toward mid-field with his right index finger extended in the air. He then stopped and pumped his fist in celebration as a crowd of 71,481, which included numerous family members and friends, screamed along with him.
The Bengals were out of rhythm from the start on both sides of the ball.
Cincinnati was missing two starters in its secondary _ cornerback Leon Hall and safety Reggie Nelson _ because of injury and the Bengals’ offense sputtered for all 60 minutes.
Mike Nugent’s two field goals were all the Bengals could muster against Cleveland’s swarming defense. Green had seven catches for 51 mostly meaningless yards as Haden blanketed all afternoon. Dalton finished 23 of 42 for 206 yards.
Billy Cundiff missed two field goals for Cleveland, but followed an embarrassing moment by kicking a 51-yarder to give the Browns a 10-3 lead in the third quarter.
After jogging onto the field, Cundiff tried a warmup kick, slipped and fell on his backside. He got up, dusted himself off and shook off two misses in the first half with a crucial make.
Cleveland had wasted good field position on consecutive possessions in Cincinnati territory before Cundiff provided the Browns a little cushion.
Nugent’s 43-yard field goal pulled the Bengals within 10-6 late in the third.
Hoyer capped a 95-yard scoring drive in the first quarter with his 2-yard touchdown pass to Cameron, who had three TD catches last week against the Vikings.
Dinking and dunking his way downfield, Hoyer completed a 17-yard pass to Davone Bess on third down to Cincinnati’s 2. On second-and-goal, Hoyer fired his pass to Cameron in the left corner, the QB’s eighth straight completion to open the game, giving the Browns a 7-0 lead.
The Bengals closed within 7-3 on 25-yard field goal in the second quarter.
Cleveland was out of timeouts with 9:31 left in the half, and using them so quickly came back to haunt them on their final drive of the second quarter as Cundiff missed a 49-yarder as time expired.
Cundiff only returned to practice on Friday after being sidelined earlier in the week with a quadriceps injury sustained in the fourth quarter last Sunday. Cundiff was also wide left on a 37-yard try in the second quarter.
Cincinnati’s gamble to go for it on 4th-and-1 and Cleveland’s 7 backfired when Browns defensive end Desmond Bryant stopped BenJarvus Green-Ellis cold at the line of scrimmage.