The Cincinnati Bengals have one less day of preparation for the 78th Battle of Ohio because they opened their season on Monday Night Football.
If anger fuels them like they believe it will, the Bengals (0-1) won’t be hurt by receiving less time to get ready for the Browns (0-1). The AFC North rivals, each one desperate for redemption, will collide Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.
The Bengals’ 44-13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Monday matched their worst season-opening defeat in franchise history. The Bengals trailed 17-13 early in the third quarter before being torched by the Ravens’ no-huddle offense, giving up an interception return for a touchdown to free safety Ed Reed and yielding 27 unanswered points.
“We just got outplayed,” Bengals cornerback Leon Hall told reporters. “They executed better than we did. The only positive is it’s just Week 1 and [we] have a home game against Cleveland next week so we can get this taste out of our mouth.”
The Browns also hope to experience a cleansing. Their defense’s five takeaways — including middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson’s interception return for a touchdown — went to waste Sunday, because the offense didn’t hold its end of the bargain. Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden threw four interceptions as the Browns fell 17-16 to the visiting Philadelphia Eagles.
The Bengals lead the all-time series against the Browns 41-36 and have prevailed in each of the past three meetings. The Browns were swept last season because of their mistakes and the prowess of Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green.
In the 2011 season opener, the Bengals caught the Browns napping with a quick snap. The Browns’ defense failed to line up before the play started, backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski completed a 41-yard touchdown pass to Green with 4:28 left and the Bengals won 27-17.
In Week 12, former Browns long snapper Ryan Pontbriand skipped the ball back to the holder and disrupted Phil Dawson’s timing on a missed 55-yard field goal. Then starting quarterback Andy Dalton and Green, both of whom were rookies last year, connected for a 51-yard completion that set up Mike Nugent’s game-winning field goal with 38 seconds left. The Bengals triumphed 23-20.
This time, the Browns’ best cornerback, Joe Haden, won’t be available to defend Green. Haden’s four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances kicked in Monday after he lost an appeal.
Joe Reedy covers the Bengals for the Cincinnati Enquirer. He discussed the Bengals and their Week 2 game against the Browns in the following question-and-answer session:
Q: What is the attitude of the Bengals after their blowout loss to the Ravens?
A: “I would say a mixture of disappointment and anger. I think most expected them to lose to the Ravens but certainly not by the margin that they did. In many ways, it was similar to the 2010 opener against New England where they got thoroughly outplayed. That season they went 4-12.”
Q: Is there a specific matchup you think the Bengals will look to exploit against the Browns?
A: “The receivers against the depleted Browns corners. Andrew Hawkins had a solid first game as the main slot receiver, and the Bengals have done a better job of moving A.J. Green around to get more favorable matchups.”
Q: In which areas do you expect the Bengals to show the most improvement from last season?
A: “The running game is definitely better with the addition of BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who had two key fourth-down conversions in the opener, including one for a touchdown. The receivers are inexperienced but should be better with Hawkins, Armon Binns and Brandon Tate.”
Q: In which areas are the Bengals most vulnerable?
A: “The secondary has been [hindered] by injuries and does not match up well at times against any opponent.”
Q: What should the Browns be most worried about when they visit the Bengals?
A: “The fact that they are an angry team that was embarrassed on a national stage. Players talked a lot in the locker room after the game about how much they were looking forward to a short work week in order to get back out and play.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/browns.abj.