There are many things that are going to be different from when the Bengals beat the Browns, 34-27, just 24 days ago at Paul Brown Stadium.
Here are just a few when it comes to Browns running back Trent Richardson vs. the Bengals Front Seven (Get used to it. That matchup and
After the Bengals let Richardson run for a 32-yard touchdown untouched and score on a 23-yard pass when four tackles couldn’t bring him down inside the 10 last month, everyone now knows the score.
"Keep them out of the end, force some turnovers and stop Richardson," middle linebacker Rey Maualuga said before Wednesday's practice. "We know he's their leading rusher and receiver. Just like Ray Rice. You eliminate him out of the game; obviously they have to find somebody else to make plays."
And now Richardson knows what to expect in Sunday's game (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12) at Cleveland Browns Stadium after what remains his career day of 119 yards rushing and 36 yards receiving. He's averaging 3.7 yards per his 81 carries and he's got 20 catches.
"I’m pretty sure they are going to try to game plan around me and they are going to try to do everything they can to stop me," Richardson said Wednesday in Cleveland. "That’s when Brandon (Weeden) comes into play, that’s when (Greg) Little comes into play, that’s when a lot of our guys with different talents come into play. (Chris) Ogbonnaya, that’s when he comes into play. So when people come in and try to just take me out, we’ve a lot more talent out there. When everybody’s doing their job, I think that we can all just increase our play much better.”
A month ago, head coach Pat Shurmur never would have dreamed of making a rookie running back a game captain the second game of his career. But Richardson is going to be one Sunday in his sixth game.
"To be a game captain, it means a lot to me. It’s an honor and it’s a privilege, really," Richardson said. "It means the guys have a lot of respect for me, it means I’ve earned and I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been here. There’s still a lot to go as far as my potential and as far as this year, there’s still a lot to go for us as a football team. These guys believe in me and they are showing me and telling me that, ‘We behind you, lead us on.’ ”
The Bengals are playing the run a lot better than they did Sept. 16 and they've played two good backs the past two weeks. Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew is averaging 4.9 yards per his 84 runs and Miami's Reggie Bush is averaging 4.8 per his 86. But against the Bengals on a combined 32 runs they averaged 2.7.
"Attention to detail. Just knowing our assignments. Just coming together as a whole and being all-in," Maualuga said. "I think everyone being on the same page, playing with that reckless mindset knowing that, hey, we did give up a lot of plays the first couple of games, three games. But realizing that it is a long season and we’ve got a bunch of games left to be played.
"With that said, let’s just brush all of that off, and now let’s get back to work and get better at what we needed to get better at. And that was not letting the running backs rush over 100 yards or giving up big plays, making sure to tackle the ball carrier. I think we’re improving in all phases of the game."
Maualuga could also be as much as 10 pounds lighter than he was back on Sept. 16. As Voice of the Bengals Dan Hoard chronicles in his "Heard it from Hoard" blog on Bengals.com, the club thinks Maualuga is going to be better off at 250 pounds instead of his reporting weight of 260.
On Wednesday, Maualuga emerged from the weight room looking like Nanook of the North, bundled in sweats before getting for lunch and then practice.
"I feel as if I tone down and get down to say 250 that who knows how much better my game can be as far as my quickness and being able to run down receivers and playing a lot more aggressive; it’s more of a thing I’m just trying to do by myself," he said. "This could be a waste of time and my play doesn’t improve."
But now that he says he's within two or three pounds of his goal, Maualuga doesn't feel any weaker. In fact, he says he feels stronger.
"You know how your body feels when you’re at that perfect point and when you’re not at the perfect point," he said. "Like fourth quarter, three minutes left to go in the game and you’re all exhausted and tired; no stamina left. Those kind of things that you can work on."
Another difference from last month?
No headlines about Maualuga talking about Richardson the week leading up to the game. After feeling his words about Richardson's play in his NFL debut were overblown, Maualuga is playing it straight this week. The two spoke after the game and it was like nothing happened.
"It was, honestly, people are going to put the words in the stories differently from what comes out of the guy’s mouth," Maualuga said. "But, hey, that was that. He had a good game and I told him."
MEDIA MARV: Head coach Marvin Lewis got the proverbial "how do you avoid a letdown against a 0-5 team?" question in his conference call with the Cleveland media and you can imagine how that went.
"I wouldn't even think about that," he said. "We played one last week we were supposed to be better than, and they beat our tails."
Asked about Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden and how he handled
With the Browns 0-5, the Browns contingent asked Lewis about the Bengals 0-8 start four years ago when quarterback Carson Palmer was shelved with a bad right elbow and backup Ryan Fitzpatrick made 12 starts in winning four of the last eight games.
"I did a poor job adjusting our team to a new quarterback," Lewis said. "As coaches, we learn from going 0-8, too."
FROSTEE UPDATE: Former Bengals right end Frostee Rucker met with the Cincinnati media via conference call after Wednesday's practice and one of the more popular players in the community sounds just as connected to Cincinnati.
"I wish the Reds had won last night," said Rucker, who would have loved to have come to the game Tuesday night on his day off. "But I didn't want to give them any ammo."
He also texted Bengals running back
"Great kid. I just told him to keep working no matter what and we'll see him next year," Rucker said. "I've been on injured reserve three times."
Every Monday, Rucker checks in with Jimmy Gould, his Cincinnati-based agent, and after they talk football they talk business and it seems to be booming on The Banks. Rucker is part owner of the Orange Leaf yogurt shop with Bengals
The football season hasn't been so lucrative. After going 0-8 in Cincinnati in '08, Rucker admits he never thought he would go through it again at 0-5.
"We can play good ball at times," he said. "Then we'll have it go the other way and it steamrolls out of control. ... We're trying to find our way collectively and we need to get it done. After a big play (against us), we need to come back and play our best."
Rucker says the Browns got a lift Wednesday with cornerback Joe Haden practicing for the first time since coming back from his month-long NFL suspension.
"What he means out there is huge for us," he said. "He was out there running around fast. Joe is going to help us tremendously. We'll play at a high level and not quit."
Rucker says the Browns have settled into a rotation on the defensive front with Juqua Parker playing end on passing downs and last Sunday against the Giants, Rucker played 39 percent of the snaps mainly against the run. The Browns are going to be focused on that Sunday after surrendering 243 on the ground to the Giants, but Rucker envisions getting more time in the nickel as his early-season nagging injuries get better.
The Bengals could see Rucker at tackle on some nickel snaps, where rookies Billy Winn and John Hughes have played well.
"My role should expand," he said. "The rotation has been good, guys have been fresh."
LEWIS WATCHING BAKER: Lewis has texted Reds manager Dusty Baker his congratulations for his club's playoff run and best wishes for his health and he did a little bit of reading up on him, too, Tuesday night.
"Did you see what they were saying about him in May?" Lewis asked. "They were killing him. Just killing him. And now the Reds have one of the best records in baseball.
"You just love the way he handles everything and how he goes about it. He's always talking about the fundamentals and he's right. They win."