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Browns' Brandon Weeden much improved vs. Bengals

A fair amount of mirth was derived from Brandon Weeden's encounter with a mammoth-sized American flag two Sundays ago. His debut for the Cleveland Browns, of course, was no laughing matter.

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The rookie quarterback was much improved in Sunday's tight 34-27 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Instead of rattling off four interceptions -- eyes glazed-over, staring into the distance -- Weeden looked the part in his first taste of this AFC North rivalry.

Weeden's 322-yard day set a Cleveland rookie passing record, but numbers aren't the main story here. We saw a more comfortable passer. In his second game, Weeden spread the ball around to eight different receivers and successfully pushed the team downfield for the first time in a Browns uniform.

Receiver Greg Little noticed a difference in the huddle. "He was on the edge. Not in a bad way, but talking to us all, 'C'mon, hold 'em right here. Give me time so I can get it downfield.' Or, 'Receivers, make sure you get your depth,'" Little told the Akron Beacon Journal. "Really more authoritative with everybody."

Weeden's improvement was matched by a big day from rookie running back Trent Richardson, who shut the Bengals up with 109 yards on the ground and a sizzling 23-yard touchdown reception that showed off his moves. Richardson ran lower to the ground and shook off tacklers.

The Browns have more work to do. This group of receivers lacks a true leader and the attack seems to fizzle out and break down too often during games, but the new pieces made a difference on Sunday. We saw a glimpse of team identity, and so did the Bengals. That's been missing in Cleveland for a long, long time.

Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.

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