For much of the past eight seasons, the Cincinnati Bengals have
dominated the Cleveland Browns.
If quarterback Andy Dalton can add to his solid rookie campaign,
the Bengals might continue that mastery of their rivals Sunday at
Paul Brown Stadium.
Cincinnati’s season-opening 27-17 win in Cleveland on Sept. 11
was its 11th in 14 matchups with the Browns. The Bengals (6-4) have
also prevailed in six of seven home meetings, and enter this one
having fallen just short during consecutive seven-point
Dalton was intercepted at Pittsburgh’s 19-yard line late in the
fourth quarter of a 24-17 loss Nov. 13, and Cincinnati couldn’t get
past Baltimore’s 7-yard line on its final drive during last week’s
That loss dropped the Bengals a game behind the Steelers and
Ravens in the AFC North.
Dalton finished with a career-best 373 yards against Baltimore.
He also recorded his 15th touchdown pass, joining Peyton Manning
and Dan Marino as the only rookies to accomplish that feat in 10
games since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.
Dalton, though, was also picked off a career-worst three times
after throwing two interceptions the previous week.
“Three mistakes and all three of them I can live with,”
offensive coordinator Jay Gruden told the Bengals’ official
website. “He did a great job. For the most part having to come from
behind and throw (a career-high 45) times … he kept us in
Dalton missed the second half of the season opener against
Cleveland (4-6) after injuring his right wrist and his replacement,
Bruce Gradkowski, threw a go-ahead 41-yard touchdown pass to A.J.
Green with 4:28 left.
The Bengals’ leading receiver, however, has missed the past six
quarters with a hyperextended right knee.
“I hope I can be back this week,” Green said.
Dalton might need Green’s help as he faces a Cleveland defense
that’s giving up a league-low 166.5 passing yards per game and is
fifth with an average of 305.8 total yards allowed.
That hasn’t translated to too many wins for the Browns because
of an offense that ranks near the bottom in the league with
averages of 14.5 points and 298.1 yards.
Cleveland, though, managed to end a season-high three-game skid
last week by topping Jacksonville 14-10. The Browns scored two
touchdowns for the first time in five weeks and held the Jaguars at
the 1-yard line over the game’s final two plays.
Cleveland is 3-1 in games that have been decided by four points
“I like suspense,” right tackle Tony Pashos said. “But man, this
is a little too much.”
The Browns might have running backs Peyton Hillis and Montario
Hardesty available should they need to pull out another tight
Hillis, who has missed six straight games with a hamstring
injury, practiced Friday for the first time in three weeks.
Hardesty has sat out the past three contests with an injured
Chris Ogbonnaya ran for a career-high 115 yards last week.
“I think Chris has been very productive. He’s done things for
our team that will warrant him playing, at least some, when our
other guys come back,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “We’ll just see how
it goes when they come back. I’m not concerned about that. That’s a
good problem to have, when you have a line of guys that you feel
Fullback Owen Marecic is still dealing with symptoms of a
concussion sustained last week, meaning tight end Alex Smith could
start in his place.
Hillis had a team-best 57 yards on 17 carries in the opener
against the Bengals, while Cedric Benson rushed for 121 and a
touchdown for Cincinnati. Benson has yet to top that total in his
eight subsequent games and has failed to surpass 78 in each of his
Benson, though, might have a chance at an improved performance
this week. He ran for 150 yards during a 19-17 home win over the
Browns on Dec. 19 and had 171 during a 14-0 victory in Cleveland in
Cleveland’s Colt McCoy, who has posted a 72.5 completion
percentage over the past two games, connected on a career-best 76.0
percent of his attempts (19 of 25) during his only start in
Cincinnati last December.
McCoy, though, was 19 of 40 against the Bengals in September
while throwing two touchdowns and an interception.