CINCINNATI — A short week was a tough week for the Cincinnati Bengal, coming off a season-opening 44-13 Monday night loss at Baltimore.
The Bengals broke the tension Sunday, winning their home opener 34-27 over the Cleveland Browns.
"It's been a tense week," Coach Marvin Lewis said. "When you lose the opener, everybody was grinding all week. It's good to get this one behind us, and now move forward."
Big plays helped Cincinnati lead all the way, starting with Adam "Pacman" Jones' 81-yard punt-return score on the team's first touch of the day.
Andy Dalton completed 24 of 31 passes for 318 yards and three touchdowns, finishing with a 128.2 passer rating.
The scoring passes covered 10 yards to A.J. Green, 44 yards to Brandon Tate and 50 yards on an Andrew Hawkins highlight-reel jitterbug through the defense.
Cleveland (0-2) got big games from quarterback Brandon Weeden and fellow rookie Trent Richardson while outgaining the Bengals 439-375.
Weeden completed 26 of 37 passes for 322 yards, two TDs and a 114.9 rating.
Richardson ran 19 times for 109 yards, including a 32-yard score. He also caught four passes for 36 yards, including a 23-yard TD.
Mike Nugent's second field goal of the game, a 37-yarder with 2:09 left, gave the Bengals a 34-24 lead.
Cleveland, out of timeouts, reached the Cincinnati 6-yard line before settling for a field goal with 20 seconds left and the chance to recover an onside kick.
Green recovered the kick to seal the victory.
"It feels great," said Green, who finished with seven catches for 58 yards. "Especially coming back on a short week. We still had that loss in our system, but you can't let that carry over into the second week."
The Bengals have won four in a row against the Browns to lead the series 42-36.
Jones, hampered by injury during training camp and ill earlier this week, got the Bengals going with his punt return. He slipped three would-be tacklers in close quarters. Alex Smith, a tight end, was the last Cleveland player with a shot to make a tackle, but Jones spun him around with a fake about 30 yards from the goal line.
"Good things happen when you've got blocks," Jones said.
Asked to describe what he saw, he said "I never really know until I go back and look at the film. My main thing is catching the ball first. Once I catch the ball, I couldn't even tell you how the play went because it goes fast. It's not like I can think about it while it's going on."
The lead was 17-10 at halftime, as the Bengals got Green's 10-yard score and a 39-yard field goal by Nugent.
Tate, beating Eric Hagg's one-on-one coverage down the Cincinnati sideline, made it 24-10 on the first possession of the second half. The score came on third-and-six — one of only four third-down conversions in 12 chances by the Bengals.
Cleveland found life late in the third quarter when D'Qwell Jackson intercepted a Dalton pass.
Five plays later, Richardson scored.
"I kind of saw the play where he scored on the little checkdown and I'm ready to see it on tape," Weeden said, "because, from my angle, it was one of the most explosive plays — unbelievable plays — that I've seen in a while."
Hawkins, a 5-foot-7, 180-pounder with a quick twitch, answered with his shake-and-bake 50-yarder with 10:44 left.
"Yes, pretty much (all instinct)," he said. "I remember a little bit, after the fact. I just thank God for the opportunity, man. Whatever God has given me takes over when I get the ball in my hands."
Dalton, under pressure, rolled out to his right before spotting Hawkins.
"Last night Coach (Jay) Gruden told the offense he wanted to have a scramble play," Lewis said. "He wanted to have a big play on the quarterback scramble because we were going to have to move away from the rush a little bit and we needed to make a play, an unscripted type of play. And, sure enough, we did."
Weeden found Greg Little for a 24-yard score with 7:11 left, making it 31-24.
The Bengals ran off 5:02 before Nugent's field goal made it a 10-point lead again.
Linebacker Rey Maualuga had three tackles and seven assists for Cincinnati. Cornerback Terence Newman had seven tackles, two assists and forced a fumble.
Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com