CINCINNATI (AP) – Andy Dalton threw for a touchdown and ran for another Sunday in his farewell as a franchise quarterback – a Joe Burrow banner in the upper deck reminded him what comes next – and the Cincinnati Bengals ended one of their most miserable seasons with a 33-23 victory over the Cleveland Browns.
Ohio’s two professional football teams wrapped up another fruitless year together and set course for an offseason of potentially big changes.
The Bengals (2-14) matched the worst record in their 52-year history. They’ll pick first in the draft for the first time since 2003, when they also were coming off a 2-14 finish and chose franchise quarterback Carson Palmer.
Cleveland (6-10) was a chic Super Bowl pick with Baker Mayfield coming off a sensational rookie season and Odell Beckham Jr. adding star quality to the offense. Instead, the Browns significantly regressed under first-year coach Freddie Kitchens, raising questions about whether he’ll get a second chance.
On a gray, rainy afternoon, the intrastate rivals moved on with an uneven game that epitomized their seasons.
Dalton knew it was likely his final start for the Bengals after nine seasons without a playoff victory. A day earlier, Burrow threw seven touchdown passes in LSU’s rout of Oklahoma, and the Bengals can take the Heisman Trophy winner if they wish.
A fan banner in the upper deck proclaimed: “CHRISTMAS COMES EARLY! WELCOME JOE!”
Dalton threw a 15-yard touchdown pass and scrambled 5 yards for another score in the Bengals’ highest-scoring first half of the season for a 20-16 lead. He finished 16 of 28 for 190 yards.
Joe Mixon ran for a career-high 162 yards and a pair of touchdowns, topping 1,000 yards for the second straight year.
The Browns hitched their hopes to Mayfield, who was inconsistent behind an offensive line that struggled to protect him. He threw three interceptions and was sacked a season-high six times Sunday.
Mayfield threw touchdown passes of 46 yards to Damion Ratley, 56 yards to Jarvis Landry, and 20 yards to Beckham. He also threw a pair of interceptions to Darius Phillips, one of which set up a Bengals touchdown.
Mayfield went 12 of 27 for 279 yards, ending his season with fewer touchdown passes and more interceptions than last year. Nick Chubb ran for 41 yards as he tried to nail down the NFL rushing title.
Browns: Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson was taken off the field by the officials in the second quarter for an exam but returned in the second half.
Bengals: Cornerback William Jackson III was sidelined with a shoulder injury.
Browns: In 2020, Cleveland will try to end the NFL’s longest active streak of failing to reach the playoffs – 17 straight years.
Bengals: In 2020, Cincinnati will try to end its 29-year streak without a playoff win, the fifth-longest in NFL history.