Theme music for Browns week


Andrew Whitworth

In the wake of their worst Opening Day loss in history, here are themes you just know are coming this week as the Bengals prepare for Sunday's 1 p.m. Paul Brown Stadium opener against the Browns.

BENGALS RECORD VS. ROOKIE QBS: The Browns come to town with Brandon Weeden making his second NFL start with the Bengals 9-9 against rookie quarterbacks under head coach Marvin Lewis.

But if the defense plays like it did Monday night, the Bengals will have a tough time beating anybody.

Cleveland struggled, no question, in Sunday's 17-16 loss to the Eagles. While Weeden uncorked just two passes of at least 20 yards, rookie running back Trent Richardson didn't have a double-digit gain.

Put that up against the Bengals allowing the Ravens six passes of at least 20 yards and five runs of least 10 and it tells you what you saw: The linebackers and secondary had a bad night and everybody took a turn.

Starting with the 52-yard bomb to Torrey Smith on the first snap of the game (which looked like cornerback Leon Hall thought he had more help than he got because he let Smith go inside him) to the first Ravens touchdown when running back Ray Rice slipped through the backer level untouched on a seven-yard walk-in.

TIME TO GET BACK TO BASICS: Always after such a brutal loss you hear about getting back to basics. The fundamentals. The gritty essentials. (The next cliché just got hackneyed to death.)

But that's what you'll hear. Stopping the run and running the ball, and the Bengals have dominated the Browns in both categories since Cleveland came back into the NFL. In the 26 games they've played since 1999, the Bengals have logged 16 100-yard games against Cleveland by Corey Dillon, Rudi Johnson, Kenny Watson, Larry Johnson and Cedric Benson.

With BenJarvus Green-Ellis coming off an impressive debut in which he barely missed becoming the first Bengals back to rush for 100 yards in his first game with 91 yards on 18 carries, there is going to be a lot of talk about the running game this week. It's as crisp as it's looked since '09.

And then there is Bernard Scott, the other member of the-back-by-committee who didn't play in the opener (hand) and looks ready.

Green-Ellis struggled a bit picking up the blitz, giving up a tipped ball once, but he did what the Bengals got him to do. He scored on the goal line and converted all four of his third- and fourth-down short-yardage runs.

(The Law Firm, by the way, would become the 14th Bengals back to have a 100-yard game since Jim Anderson became the running backs coach in 1984 and the second one born during his tenure. Scott, 28, was the 12th guy to hit 100 in 2009.)

Two of Benson's three 100-yard games last season came against the Browns and Cleveland is without two of its best run-stoppers in tackle Phil Taylor and Chris Gocong.

FAINE PLAYS HIS OLD MATES: Center Jeff Faine, the former Brown, delivered one of the more remarkable debuts in Bengals history with a near flawless performance Monday night despite preparing for the rough-and-tumble Ravens front seven with just five practices. No balls on the ground, no false starts, no free blitzers at quarterback Andy Dalton.

It wasn't perfect, but it was good enough to win as the team's two young guards and two veteran tackles had a big night. Left guard Clint Boling and right guard Kevin Zeitler showed they can move and find their men, and while right tackle Andre Smith had a nice night in the running game, left tackle Andrew Whitworth showed why he's one of the best left tackles in the game with a vintage solid night protecting Dalton and throwing people around on screens.

It will be mentioned during the course of the week that about a zillion GMs, a club president or two, and an owner ago Faine was Cleveland's first-round pick in the 2003 draft at No. 21.

THE RETURN OF FROSTEE RUCKER: The popular former Bengals defensive end plays his old club for the first time since signing a lucrative deal in Cleveland on the first day of free agency and comes off a solid debut last Sunday after being shelved much of the preseason with a knee injury.

Rucker, the starting right end, arrives as the Bengals go through a tough time on their own line while they try to replace him and Jon Fanene in last year's rotation that formed the backbone of the league's No. 7 defense.

Left end Carlos Dunlap (knee) hasn't played since the preseason opener and his backup, Robert Geathers, played less than that until practicing last week. Plus, tackle Pat Sims is on PUP and tackle Nick Hayden got hurt, and now rookie tackles Devon Still, a second-rounder, and Brandon Thompson, a third-rounder, are having their trials by fire.

According to profootballfocus.com, Still, a pass rusher who is also playing some end, played 25 snaps in his debut Monday while Thompson played seven. The Bengals haven't been able to get right end Michael Johnson the rest they wanted and he led the line with 57 snaps while Geathers played more than half (36) despite just getting back into it.

The Bengals were hoping to retain Rucker as part of the rotation, but the Browns gave him starter's money as well as the start. So they'll see who misses whom. Rucker played 48 snaps last Sunday, according to PFF, double his usual plate as a Bengal.

GOAL TO GO, RED ZONE: For the third straight game against the Ravens, the Bengals had the ball longer than Baltimore and lost. Last season, those were the only two games the Bengals lost when they had the ball longer.

Which gets right down to goal to go and red zone, doesn't it, the two categories that seem to bite the Bengals against the elite teams? The Bengals, 24th in goal-to-go situations last season, were 0-for-1 Monday. Ranked 26th in red-zone TD percentage in 2011, the Bengals started where they left off and went 1-for-3.

The Ravens went 3-for-3 in the red zone while going to their tight end twice and once for a TD, while Dalton could hook up with Jermaine Gresham only once in the red zone.

TIME TO WORRY ABOUT DALTON? That will be a theme now that's he's 0-5 against Baltimore and Pittsburgh, but, really, he played well Monday until the defense let it get out of hand. Still, Dalton showed as much emotion as he ever has as a pro, seemed to grow frustrated when he couldn't pop a big play, and overthrew a ball badly as Green seemed to be breaking open. His longest completion was a 27-yard screen to wide receiver Andrew Hawkins. The topic this week is improving Dalton's 5.7 yards per attempt.

CHANGES? The Bengals looked to change out at SAM backer and safety after Manny Lawson and Taylor Mays, respectively, struggled in pass coverage, and the questions are going to be if Dan Skuta and Jeromy Miles see more time against the Browns. Certainly Lewis couldn't have been happy with Mays's head-to-head hit on tight end Ed Dickson after the pass was clearly incomplete. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell may not like it either in the form of a fine, another topic to be sure.

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