Browns fall to 0-13, lose 23-10 to Bengals
By TOM WITHERS
CLEVELAND (AP) Robert Griffin III shook off some rust, then couldn't jolt the Browns to a win.
They're 0-13, three losses from infamy and shame.
Griffin returned from injury and played for the first time in three months, but didn't stop Cleveland from falling closer to a 0-16 finish as the Cincinnati Bengals built a big early lead and held off the winless Browns 23-10 on Sunday in the snow.
Griffin hadn't played since the Sept. 11 opener, when he broke a bone in his left shoulder. He had a handful of positive plays, showed poise under pressure and most importantly, survived to play another week.
"He showed that he belongs," coach Hue Jackson said. "He has to get better in some areas. I am not running from that, but for the first time back out late in the season like this, I thought he held his own."
Griffin scored on a 1-yard sneak in the third quarter, but the Browns (0-13) lost their 16th straight dating to Dec. 13 last season. Cleveland has lost 23 of 24 and 31 of 34 since the end of 2014.
The Browns have three games left to avoid joining the 2008 Detroit Lions as the NFL's only 0-16 teams.
"We're not going 0-16," said rookie linebacker Emmanuel Ogbah. "We're going to keep fighting to the very end. We still have three more games left."
Griffin finished 12 of 28 for 104 yards and one interception. After posting a 0.00 QB rating in the first half, the 26-year-old was able spark a brief comeback and felt satisfied with his performance.
"I felt like I saw the field well," said Griffin, who was pleased he was able to absorb some big hits. "All that's a side note, you want to find a way to win."
Isaiah Crowell was a bright spot for Cleveland, rushing for 113 yards on 10 carries.
Dalton, who has had some of his best games against Cleveland, connected twice in the first half with Eifert as the Bengals bullied the NFL's worst team for 30 minutes.
The Browns battled back in the second half, getting within 10 in the fourth before Cincinnati's Mike Nugent kicked a 44-yard field goal with 8:38 left.
Cincinnati has some work to do and needs plenty of help to make the postseason for the sixth straight year. The Bengals entered Sunday 2 1/2 games behind Pittsburgh and Baltimore in the AFC North.
"Obviously, we wasted some opportunities earlier in the year, but we want to finish strong," Dalton said. "That's all we can do to help ourselves."
For the Browns, the 2016 season can't end soon enough.
The Browns had another moment to symbolize their lost season when their "Brownie The Elf" mascot slipped on the sideline and fell while trying to retrieve a ball that bounced out of bounds following a punt.
Even without star wide receiver A.J. Green, the Bengals sucked the life out of the Browns and any strong-stomached Cleveland fans willing to brave the cold in this calamitous season by scoring two touchdowns in the first quarter.
Cincinnati took the opening kickoff and drove 73 yards as Dalton connected with Eifert for a 14-yard TD. After the Browns punted, Jeremy Hill's 1-yard plunge capped Cincinnati's second possession to make it 13-0 - Nugent's extra point was blocked - and it became very clear the Bengals had not overlooked the Browns, who were coming off their bye week.
Dalton's second TD to Eifert, a 5-yard pass on third down, put the Bengals up 20-0.
"I don't know what they (Browns) were doing because I don't think he was matched up against anybody," Dalton said. "I was surprised how easy it was."
The Browns are making history with every loss. They are the seventh team since 1962 to start 0-13, joining the '08 Lions, 1980 Saints, 1976 Buccaneers, 2011 Colts, 2007 Dolphins and 1962 Raiders.
The Browns will play in London next season, the team's first visit to England since playing an exhibition game there in 1989.
The NFL has increased its commitment to the United Kingdom's market and will have four games in London next season. It's not known yet if the Browns will be giving up a home game to make the trip.
A league spokesman said an official announcement will be made Tuesday.
Bengals: Host Pittsburgh on Dec. 18
Browns: At Buffalo on Dec. 18
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Updated December 11, 2016