CINCINNATI — The sweep smell of success wafted over sold-out Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday.
Even though lead running back Cedric Benson was inactive due to a hip injury, the Cincinnati Bengals ran for 210 yards in a 16-7 victory over the Cleveland Browns.
Cleveland's 169 net yards were the fewest allowed by the Bengals since holding Pittsburgh to 154 in 1983.
"If we can run the football and play good defense, I can drive into the stadium pretty confident most days," Bengals Coach Marvin Lewis said. "And that's a good feeling."
Cincinnati (8-3) thus completed its first ever sweep (6-0) of the AFC North.
The sweep is "definitely something to be proud of, but it's one small step in a series of goals and steps we need to reach to get to that ultimate final goal," said Carson Palmer, who completed 13 of only 24 throws for 110 yards and a touchdown. "We worked hard for it and we're excited about it. We still have five more big games coming up and a lot to play for. The more games we win, the more we control our destiny."
Larry Johnson, signed as a free agent on Nov. 17, looked like the two-time Pro Bowler that he is. He lugged the ball 22 times for 107 yards. Bernard Scott had 87 yards on 18 tries before tweaking a knee.
Johnson, cut by Kansas City after using derogatory phrases, worried that he might not get another chance to play this season.
"That's why I had to just be prepared and be ready and study as much as I could, so that when it was time for them to test me to see how much I knew that I was going to be able to stand up and say, 'yes, I know the offense,'" Johnson said. "I'm just thankful they gave me a second chance to be able to come out and have a day like this."
Tackle Andre Smith, the Bengals No. 1 draft pick, made his pro debut, playing in unbalanced-line situations. A broken bone in his left foot delayed his debut.
"It was good to get the chance to unwrap one of our little presents," Lewis said. "Or I should say big present, and go forward."
Smith is a 6-foot-4, 335-pounder out of Alabama.
While the crowd of 64,553 sometimes grumbled over the run-run (45 times) attack, the Bengals were all smiles.
"It's always good for your back to go over 100," guard Bobbie Williams said. "Always. That means you're doing something right out there."
Held to two first downs in the first half, Cleveland (1-10) finished with 11 first downs and 58 yards on 18 rushes.
Brandon Johnson, a linebacker out of Louisville, led the Bengals with eight tackles. Six others had four tackles each, including cornerback Morgan Trent, who had the lone sack of Brady Quinn.
"They bring some pressure and sometimes it is more than we can handle," said Quinn, who finished 15-for-34 for 100 yards and scored on a 9-yard run. "A lot of times it doesn't allow me to sit back there and take all day to throw."
The only scare for the Bengals en route to a 13-0 halftime lead came as time expired, when Palmer was sacked for a 1-yard loss at midfield. The horse-collar tackle by Shaun Rogers knocked the wind out of Palmer, and the 15-yard penalty put the ball on the 35. Allowed another play because of the penalty, Shayne Graham tied his career best with a 53-yard field goal.
Graham opened the scoring with a 37-yard field goal in the first quarter and added a 28-yarder in the third.
Cincinnati's touchdown came with 1:10 left in the half, a 4-yard pass from Palmer to tight end J.P. Foschi.
Quinn's first rushing TD of his career, on Cleveland's first possession of the second half, came on a quarterback draw. Earlier on the drive, Quinn hauled in an 18-yard pass.
With Quinn in the shotgun, Josh Cribbs came across in motion to the right and took a direct snap, then threw to Quinn back on the left side.
The Bengals don't plan to rest on their divisional sweep. With 10 penalties for 75 yards Sunday, there is plenty of room for improvement.
"We're going to keep it on the grind," defensive tackle Domata Peko said. "Put the pedal to the metal. And we've got the Lions next."