The Cincinnati Bengals enter the 2013 season looking to do something they have never done before: make the postseason in three consecutive years.
After finishing the 2010 season with a 4-12 record, the Bengals added wide receiver A.J. Green and quarterback Andy Dalton in the draft, and that tandem has helped Cincinnati post a combined record of 19-13 over the last two years.
The Bengals finished the 2012 season at 10-6 and second place in the AFC North Division. They made the playoffs for the third time in the last four years and consecutive seasons for only the second time in their history.
Last year, the Browns and Bengals split their two meetings, as both teams protected home-field advantage.
The Bengals earned a 34-27 come-from-behind victory at Paul Brown Stadium on Sept. 16, and the Browns returned the favor with a 34-24 win on Oct. 14. The win over Cincinnati was the Browns’ first of the season, and set off a streak where they won two games in a three-week period.
The Bengals outgained their regular-season opponents 5,323 to 5,115 in total yards, including a 178-yard advantage in the passing game and a 30-yard difference on the ground. The Bengals also generated more sacks (51 to 46), kicked more field goals (30 to 27), and scored more touchdowns (43 to 34) than their opponents, and were plus-four in turnovers.
Dalton led Cincinnati’s offense and completed 329 of 528 pass attempts for 3,669 yards and 27 touchdowns against 16 interceptions. Despite being sacked 46 times for 229 lost yards, Dalton carried an 87.4 quarterback rating and rushed for four touchdowns.
Green was Dalton’s favorite target, catching 97 passes for 1,350 yards and 11 touchdowns. His longest reception, a 73-yarder in a 38-31 win at Washington on Sept. 23, was a trick play thrown by fellow wide receiver Mohamed Sanu.
Tight end Jermaine Gresham caught 64 passes for 737 yards and five touchdowns, while Sanu and wide receiver Andrew Hawkins each caught four passes for scores.
When the Bengals kept the ball on the ground, they put it in the hands of BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Green-Ellis rushed for 1,094 yards and six touchdowns on 278 carries. He added another dimension to Cincinnati’s offense by catching 22 passes out of the backfield.
Undrafted rookie linebacker Vontaze Burfict registered team highs with 127 total tackles and 73 solo stops, and fellow linebacker Rey Maualuga added 122 total stops last season.
Defensive linemen Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson led the pass rush for the Bengals. Atkins registered 12.5 quarterback sacks, and Johnson added 11.5 of his own.
Cornerback Adam Jones and wide receiver Brandon Tate served as the Bengals’ catalysts in the return game. Jones returned 26 punts an average of 11.6 yards with an 81-yard touchdown against the Browns on Sept. 16. He averaged 21.3 yards over three kickoff returns.
Tate averaged 8.9 yards over 21 punt returns, but made his biggest impact running back 32 kickoffs for 795 yards.
Punter Kevin Huber averaged 46.6 yards over 76 punts, 33 of which he pinned inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.
Key Additions: The Bengals re-signed many of their own free agents, including running back Bernard Scott, defensive ends Robert Geathers and Johnson, Maualuga, kicker Mike Nugent, Tate, Jones and cornerback Terence Newman. They added quarterback John Skelton from waivers via Arizona.
Key Losses: Defensive tackle Pat Sims (to Oakland), linebacker Manny Lawson (to Buffalo), and special teams standout/linebacker Dan Skuta (to San Francisco).
Draft: The Bengals selected tight end Tyler Eifert in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, and followed that up with three defensive selections over their next four picks. After choosing running back Giovani Bernard with their first of two second-round picks, the Bengals selected defensive end Margus Hunt, strong safety Shawn Williams (third) and outside linebacker Sean Porter (fourth). With their final five picks, the Bengals added offensive tackle Tanner Hawkinson (fifth round), running back Rex Burkhead and wide receiver Cobi Hamilton (sixth), and offensive tackle Reid Fragel and center T.J. Johnson (seventh).
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski is a native of Toledo, Ohio, and graduate of St. John’s Jesuit High School.
Cleveland defensive coordinator Ray Horton was a second-round pick of the Bengals in the 1983 NFL Draft. He played in 147 games, started 99 with the Bengals and appeared in Super Bowl XXIII. He later served as the defensive backs coach (1997-2000) and safeties coach (2001) for the Bengals.
Defensive backs coach Louie Cioffi was a defensive assistant for the Bengals from 1997-2002, and later served as their assistant defensive backs coach from 2003-2010.
Browns offensive line coach George Warhop began his coaching career as a student assistant coach at the University of Cincinnati in 1983.
Browns offensive linemen
Hughes played football for the University of Cincinnati, and Kitchen played at Kent State University.
Bengals tight end Alex Smith spent the last three seasons with the Browns, where he caught 28 passes for 184 yards and one touchdown in 29 games as a tight end and fullback.
Cincinnati running back Cedric Peerman spent part of the 2009 season on the Browns’ active roster and practice squad.
Quarterback Josh Johnson spent the final week of the 2012 season with the Browns.
Bengals defensive tackle Larry Black (Cincinnati/Wyoming High School), fullback John Conner (Cincinnati/Lakota West H.S.), linebackers James Harrison (Akron/Coventry H.S.) and J.K. Schaffer (Cincinnati/LaSalle H.S.), running back Daniel Herron (Warren/Harding H.S.), Huber (Cincinnati/Archbishop McNicholas H.S.), Nugent (Centerville), tight end Richard Quinn (Maple Heights), as well as wide receivers Roy Roundtree (Trotwood/Trotwood-Madison H.S.) and Dane Sanzenbacher (Toledo/Central Catholic H.S.) are Ohio natives.
Fragel (The Ohio State University), Harrison (Kent State), wide receiver Andrew Hawkins (University of Toledo), Herron (Ohio State), Huber (Cincinnati), Nugent (Ohio State), and Sanzenbacher (Ohio State) played college football in Ohio.
Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden is a native of Tiffin, Ohio.
Cincinnati’s assistant linebackers/quality control coach, David Lippincott is a native of Cincinnati. After graduating from Archbishop Moeller High School, he went to the University of Dayton. Lippincott’s coaching career began as an assistant at Bluffton College from 2000-02.
Chip Morton, the Bengals’ strength-and-conditioning coach served as Ohio State’s assistant strength-and-conditioning coach from 1985-86.
Bengals quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese served as the passing-game coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Miami (Ohio) University from 1996-97.
Bengals assistant special teams/quality control coach Brayden Coombs is a native of Cincinnati. After graduating from Colerain High School, he played collegiately at Miami (Ohio).
The Browns are 37-42-0 all-time against the Bengals, including a 23-16-0 mark in Cleveland.