Browns-Bengals Preview

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

defeats.

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

31-24 defeat.

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

it.”

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

or fewer.

“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

game.

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

calf.

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

good about.”

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

last five.

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

2008.

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.