CLEVELAND -- It was during a meeting with his offense earlier this week when Hue Jackson told his best players they had to get "turnt" now that the end of the season was rapidly approaching.
"It's time. All the fun stuff is over," the Cincinnati Bengals' offensive coordinator said. "It's been a long season, but this is the grind part of the season.
"That's just where we are. We're the Bengals, baby, and we better get turnt."
That's exactly what Jackson's key playmakers did Sunday en route to blowing out the Cleveland Browns in a 37-3 road win. On the heels of a 24-point victory over the Rams last week, it was the kind of dominating performance that the Bengals could use to assert themselves entering the rest of their December and January slate. As they try to prove they aren't just a playoff team but a Super Bowl contender, they will have to play this way each week.
Credit A.J. Green's 128-yard outing, Andy Dalton's three-touchdown performance (two passing, one rushing) and Jeremy Hill's season-best 98-yard day as sparks to the win. Add Geno Atkins' ability to rush the passer on defense, and the Bengals had the perfect formula for a good division win.
What it means: Cincinnati's win was its third straight over the Browns. The Bengals have now won the past three meetings by a combined 98-13. Now the Bengals have a chance to clinch a division championship and playoff berth with a win over Pittsburgh at home next week.
What were they thinking? Perhaps the Bengals ought to be a little concerned about the fourth-quarter fumble recovery the defense had when any one of four Bengals could have scooped up a failed backward pass and scored. Instead of doing that, a couple of Bengals ended up scrapping on the ground for the loose ball, thinking they were fighting with opposing offensive players for it. It certainly was a head-scratching moment. But if that's the most bizarre moment, the Bengals have to be pleased.
One reason to be excited: The future appears bright for the Bengals, who activated many of their youngest players in an effort to account for the sudden bevy of injuries they have in the secondary and at tight end. Given the game's outcome, Bengals fans ought to be happy with where it appears their team is headed. Rookie cornerback Josh Shaw, who was injured in the first half, had five tackles before his departure. His replacement, fellow rookie Troy Hill, had a tackle on his first play from scrimmage. He was signed off the practice squad Saturday and activated for the first time in his career. Other first-time actives included: offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi (first round), tight end C.J. Uzomah (fifth round) and receiver Mario Alford (seventh round). Uzomah and Alford caught their first career passes in the fourth quarter.
One reason to panic: When a team wins by 34 points, it's hard pinpointing much that's worthy of panic. That's particularly the case when you factor in the injury issues the Bengals had coming into this one. Bengals fans have plenty of reasons to simply enjoy this win.
Fantasy watch: About an hour before Sunday's game, one Browns fan was about to lose his voice while heckling Hill from the front row of a set of end zone seats. Among his more noteworthy verbal jabs toward the Bengals rusher: "I cut you from my fantasy team!" Well, that fan may regret that decision. Under ESPN's standard scoring system, Hill posted 15-point fantasy performance in the win. It was powered in part by his 1-yard touchdown run that was capped with a leap into the arms of a Bengals fan who was sitting in the west-side stands. Hill wasn't the only offensive player who had a strong fantasy afternoon. Dalton posted 23 points, and Green had 18.
Ouch: Only Shaw was lost during the game with a back injury that came at the end of the second quarter. It was the product of friendly fire, as he and safety Shawn Williams attempted to tackle Browns running back Isaiah Crowell at the end of a long first-down run. Williams popped Shaw hard in the back, causing the young corner to twist his body awkwardly.