Game Preview

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Game Preview: Bengals at Browns | Week 14

181216-Mixon-Joe_rushing (AP)

Kickoff: 1 p.m. Eastern.

Television: The game will air on CBS-TV. In Cincinnati, it will be carried by WKRC-TV (Ch. 12). Broadcasters are Beth Mowins (play-by-play) and Tiki Barber (analyst).

Radio: The game will air on the Bengals Radio Network, led by Cincinnati flagship stations WLW-AM (700), WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530; all sports) and WEBN-FM (102.7). Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham (analyst).

Setting the scene: The Bengals this week travel to FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland on Sunday to take on the Browns in this season’s first installment of “Battle of Ohio.” Cincinnati stands at 1-11, after earning its first win last week in a 22-6 decision over the N.Y. Jets at Paul Brown Stadium.

The Bengals’ win over the Jets featured the return of QB Andy Dalton, who was back in the starting lineup for the first time after serving as a reserve for Games 9-11. Dalton completed 22 of 37 passes for 243 yards and a TD (88.0 rating) in the win, however his performance may be remembered most for passing former Bengals QB Ken Anderson for the franchise records in career TD passes and career completions. Dalton now has passed for 198 TDs (Anderson had 197) and 2669 completions (Anderson had 2654).

“I’ve been here a long time,” Dalton said. “It means a lot to me to have the opportunity to break Ken’s records — I’ve known him for a while. (Setting career records) also shows that I’ve been consistent here for a long time. I’ve been lucky to have played on some good offenses with good players here. It’s cool to break those records, and it gives me bragging rights now (laughs).”

The win will also be remembered as the first for rookie head coach Zac Taylor, who received a Gatorade shower in the game’s waning moments. Players extolled Taylor after the game for keeping the team together through a difficult 0-11 start to the season.

“He always continued to push us,” said WR Tyler Boyd. “He never lost his mind, he never snapped, he never felt like we were a losing team. In spite of our record, he knew we were better than what it showed. He continued to be a great head coach and put us in positions to win, and I’m sure he’ll continue to do that. If we go out and execute the game plan, we’ll keep getting wins.”

Perhaps overshadowed in the win was the strong play of the Bengals’ defense, which held the Jets to just two FGs, sacked Sam Darnold four times, and didn’t allow New York inside the red zone. The Bengals still enter this Sunday’s game ranked 31st in the NFL in yards allowed and 24th in points allowed, however the defense’s improvement over the last three weeks has been a major reason for the team’s turnaround.

Cincinnati has allowed just one TD in the last 10 quarters, dating back to halftime of Game 10 at Oakland. And over the last two weeks, the Bengals’ 22 points allowed are the second-fewest in the NFL (among teams who have played both weeks) behind Buffalo (18).

With four games remaining in their season, the Bengals turn their attention toward the division-rival Browns, whom they will face twice in the next four weeks.

Cleveland enters Sunday’s matchup 5-7, after falling 20-13 at Pittsburgh last week.

The series: The Bengals lead 50-41 in the “Battle of Ohio” series and have won eight of the last 11 games. Home field has been a factor over the length of the series, as the Bengals lead 30-16 at home but trail 20-25 as the road club.

The Bengals have played more games against the Browns (91) than any foe except Pittsburgh. The Bengals have 101 all-time games against the Steelers.

More series notes:

  • Cleveland swept the Bengals in 2018, with a 35-20 win over Cincinnati in Game 11 and a 26-18 victory in Game 15. It was the Browns’ first season sweep over the Bengals since 2002.
  • Cleveland’s win in Game 11 last season snapped a seven-game Bengals winning streak against the Browns. That streak, the Bengals’ longest in the series, began with the second meeting of 2014. The Bengals’ previous longest streak had been a five-game run from Game 2 of 2004 through Game 2 of ’06.
  • The Browns’ longest win streak over Cincinnati also has been seven games, extending from Game 2 of the 1992 season through Game 2 of ’95.
  • Since the Browns’ rebirth in 1999, the Bengals lead 26-14, including 12-8 as the visiting team and 14-6 as the home team.

The "Battle of Ohio" between the Bengals and Browns have had some memorable moments. A look back at the rivalry since 2000 in photos.

Bengals seek to regain biggest ‘Battle’ margin: With its two victories over Cincinnati in 2018, Cleveland whittled the Bengals’ lead of 11 games down to nine games in the teams’ all-time series. The Bengals previous lead of 11 games after the 2017 season set the benchmark for the biggest lead held by either side in the “Battle of Ohio” series, which began in 1970. This weekend’s game at FirstEnergy Stadium is the teams’ first meeting this season.

The series began with the Browns winning six of the first seven, and their five-game margin at 6-1, after the first meeting of 1973, stands as their largest lead. The Bengals lead 49-34 since that Cleveland high-water mark. The Browns have not led the series since the end of 2005, when they held a 33-32 edge.

Since surrendering that 33-32 lead by giving up a sweep in the 2006 meetings, the Browns have twice pulled into ties — at 34-34 after game one of ’07 and at 35-35 after game one of ’08. But the Browns have now endured a 12-year stretch without a lead in the series. Barring possible additions to the series in postseason play, the Bengals cannot surrender their series lead until after the first game of 2023, at the earliest. The Browns could not lead again until after the second game of ’23.

More Bengals-Browns facts: The first-ever Bengals-Browns meeting of any kind was Aug. 29, 1970. On that Saturday, the Browns were visitors for the second preseason game of Riverfront Stadium’s debut year. The Bengals won 31-24, moving to 2-0 in preseason in their new home.

Also:

  • The Bengals were 17-10 against the Browns at Riverfront Stadium/Cinergy Field.
  • The Browns were 17-8 against the Bengals at the old Cleveland Stadium, but the Bengals lead 12-8 at FirstEnergy Stadium (formerly Cleveland Browns Stadium).
  • The Bengals and Browns never played at Nippert Stadium, as Nippert was the Bengals’ American Football League home.
  • The Bengals have posted 13 season sweeps, and the Browns have posted nine. The teams have split 23 times. In 1982, they played only once, with the scheduled contest at Cleveland cancelled due to a players’ strike.
  • The first Bengals-Browns regular-season game at Cincinnati on Nov. 15, 1970 drew the first home crowd of 60,000 in Bengals history (60,007 at Riverfront Stadium). The Bengals won 14-10 behind a 110-yard rushing effort from QB Virgil Carter, the only 100-yarder by a QB in Bengals history.
  • The largest Bengals home crowd for a Browns game has been 66,072, on Sept. 17, 2006 at Paul Brown Stadium. That ranks as the fifth-largest crowd in Bengals history.
  • The Browns drew the largest Bengals crowd in the Riverfront Stadium/Cinergy Field era — 60,284 for a 27-24 Browns win on Oct. 17, 1971.
  • The Bengals and Browns met three times in preseason at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, from 1972-74. All were Sunday afternoon games, and the Browns won two of the three.

Coaches in ‘Battle of Ohio:’ For just the second time in history, Sunday’s Bengals-Browns meeting will feature two rookie head coaches (Cincinnati’s Zac Taylor and Cleveland’s Freddie Kitchens) who are facing both each other and their Ohio rival for the first time in the same game.

The first such instance occurred on Oct. 21, 1984, when Bengals first-year head coach Sam Wyche met Browns first-year head coach Marty Schottenheimer in Cincinnati at Riverfront Stadium. The Bengals won that contest, 12-9.

The Bengals’ Homer Rice and the Browns’ Sam Rutigliano also were rookie head coaches when they met for the first time on Dec. 17, 1978 at Riverfront Stadium. However, that was Rutigliano’s second “Battle of Ohio” as Cleveland’s head coach. The two teams met in Game 2 that year, before Rice took the reins in Cincinnati (Rice was named Bengals head coach after Game 5).

More notes about “Battle of Ohio” coaches:

  • Former Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, who was 22-10 overall against Cleveland, has the most total wins and best winning percentage (.688) of any Bengals head coach in the series. Lewis also has coached the most games (32) against Cleveland. Sam Wyche is second in all three categories, with 10 wins, a .625 winning percentage (10-6) and 16 games.
  • Bill Belichick has been the top Browns coach in the series, having posted an 8-2 mark against the Bengals during his 1991-95 tenure.
  • Lewis is the only Bengals head coach whose first Cincinnati victory came against Cleveland. Lewis took over as head coach in 2003, and his first win was a 21-14 decision at Cleveland on Sept. 28 of that year. The Bengals entered that game at 0-3, but went on to finish 8-8. The six-game improvement, after a 2-14 season in 2002, was the largest in the NFL for ’03.
  • Forrest Gregg is the only head coach to pilot both teams in the “Battle of Ohio.” Gregg was 1-5 as Browns coach against the Bengals from 1975-77, and he was 3-4 as Bengals coach against the Browns from ’80-83.
  • Here’s a full roundup of Bengals’ head coaches, in chronological order,and their records in the “Battle of Ohio:” Paul Brown (5-7), Bill “Tiger” Johnson (3-2), Homer Rice (2-1), Forrest Gregg (3-4), Sam Wyche (10-6), Dave Shula (1-7), Bruce Coslet (2-1), Dick LeBeau (2-3), Marvin Lewis (22-10).
  • The Bengals are 10-7 against Browns head coaches directing their first game in the series. Browns head coaches who won their first game have been Blanton Collier (1970), Nick Skorich (’71), Sam Rutigliano (’78), Bill Belichick (’91), Rob Chudzinski (2013) and Mike Pettine (2014). On the losing end for Cleveland have been Forrest Gregg (1975), Marty Schottenheimer (’84), Bud Carson (’89), Jim Shofner (’90), Chris Palmer (’99), Butch Davis (2001), Romeo Crennel (’05), Eric Mangini (’09), Pat Shurmur (’11), Hue Jackson (’16) and Gregg Williams (’18).
  • Bengals coaches show a 7-2 record the first time out against Cleveland. The last five have won. The seven winners have been Bill Johnson (1976), Homer Rice (’78), Sam Wyche (’84), Dave Shula (’92), Bruce Coslet (’99), Dick LeBeau (2000) and Marvin Lewis (’03). Losing in the first try vs. Cleveland were Paul Brown (1970) and Forrest Gregg (’80).

Bengals-Browns connections: Bengals CB B.W. Webb was with the Browns in 2017 ... Bengals DE Sam Hubbard, G Michael Jordan and G/C Billy Price all played at Ohio State University. Price is also from Austintown, Ohio (Fitch High School) ... Browns CB Denzel Ward also played at Ohio State University ... Browns RB Kareem Hunt played at the University of Toledo ...Browns CB T.J. Carrie played at Ohio University ... Browns WR Taywan Taylor is from Louisville, Ky. ... Bengals defensive line coach Nick Eason played (2004-06) and coached (2013) for the Browns ... Bengals TE Mason Schreck (practice squad) is from Medina, Ohio (Medina High School) ... Bengals WR Cody Thompson (practice squad) is from Huron, Ohio (Huron High School), and played at the University of Toledo ... Bengals LB Brady Sheldon (practice squad) was on the Browns’ practice squad in 2018 ... Bengals defensive quality control coach Jordan Kovacs is from Curtice, Ohio ... Bengals senior defensive assistant Mark Duffner coached at Ohio State University from 1975-76 ...Browns strength and conditioning coordinator Evan Marcus coached at the University of Louisville from 1998-99 ... Browns pass game coordinator/secondary coach Joe Whitt coached at the University of Louisville from 2003-06 ... Browns defensive coordinator Steve Wilks coached at Bowling Green State University in 2003.

Dalton returns to starting role: On Nov. 25, the day after his team fell 16-10 to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor announced at his news conference that Andy Dalton would return to the starting QB role for Game 12 vs. the N.Y. Jets.

Dalton replaced Ryan Finley, who had previously replaced Dalton during the Bengals’ Week 9 bye. Finley started three games, and passed 41 of 87 for 474 yards, with two TDs and two INTs.

In his first game back as the No. 1 QB, Dalton led the Bengals to their first victory of the season, a 22-6 home win over the Jets. He passed 22 of 37 for 243 yards and a TD (88.0 rating). During the game, Dalton passed former Bengals QB Ken Anderson for a pair of team passing records — he now has 198 career TD passes (Anderson had 197), and 2669 completions (Anderson had 2654).

Boyd eyeing another thousand: With WR A.J. Green having not yet played this season due to an ankle injury, WR Tyler Boyd has again stepped into the spotlight as the Bengals No. 1 WR. But it’s familiar territory for the fourth-year pro. Boyd served in the same role the second half of last season while Green was out with a foot injury, and he ended the year with a career-high 1028 receiving yards despite missing the final two games with his own injury. That made him the first Bengal other than Green to top 1000 receiving yards in a season since 2009 (Chad Johnson, 1047).

This season, Boyd is on pace to again top 1000 receiving yards. He currently has a team-high 758 receiving yards, and stands just 242 yards shy of 1000. He would need to average 60.6 yards over the season’s final five games to reach the century mark.

Boyd already stands as one of nine Bengals ever to reach 1000 receiving yards in a season, and he’s attempting to become just the sixth Bengal to hit the mark in multiple seasons. Johnson’s seven 1000-yard seasons stand as the most in team history, followed by Green (six), WR Cris Collinsworth (four), WR Carl Pickens (four) and WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh (two). WRs Eddie Brown, Tim McGee and Darnay Scott each had one 1000-yard season.

Dunlap, Atkins neck-and-neck in career sacks: Just 2.5 sacks separate Bengals DE Carlos Dunlap (78 sacks) and DT Geno Atkins (75.5), who rank second and third, respectively, on Cincinnati’s all-time sack list behind all-time leader Eddie Edwards (83.5). And now that Edwards’ record is within sight, the race is on to see which player catches him first.

Dunlap, a two-time Pro Bowler (2015 and ’16) who turned 30 after the ’18 season, has a team-high 5.5 sacks this season. He entered the year 1.5 sacks ahead of Atkins, but fell behind after missing two games (Games 6-7) due to a knee injury. Dunlap, though, re-took the lead in impressive fashion in Game 12 vs. the N.Y. Jets, when he tied a career high with three sacks. Dunlap averaged 8.1 sacks over his first nine NFL seasons, while Edwards averaged just under seven over 12 seasons. In 2015, Dunlap set a career-high in sacks, with 13.5, the second-most in Bengals history.

Atkins, who missed nearly half of the 2013 season with a torn ACL, has more than double the number of sacks of the next-closest interior defensive lineman in Bengals history (Tim Krumrie, 34.5). Atkins has 4.5 sacks this season, including two multi-sack performances — Game 7 vs. Jacksonville (two), and Game 10 at Oakland (1.5). Last season, he had a team-high 10 sacks, the third-highest single-season sack total of his career (he had a career-high 12.5 in 2012, and 11 in ’15). Atkins has finished with at least a share of the NFL lead for sacks by an interior lineman five times in nine NFL seasons, including in three of the last four years.

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