When the Cleveland Browns last played the Cincinnati Bengals, they earned a 17-6 win at FirstEnergy Stadium.
The Browns’ defense limited the explosive Bengals offense to 266 yards, 63 rushing and 203 passing, and kept them out of the end zone. It was the only time in which the Bengals have been held without a touchdown this season.
In preparing for the rematch, Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton said, “I hope we can match that” defensive effort.
“Our defense played a very good game against Cincinnati the first game,” Horton recalled. “We, our staff, I believe our players believe that Cincinnati has one of the deepest, most talented teams if not in our division, then in the AFC. They have multiple skill people at multiple positions, running back depth, tight end, wide receiver. They’re loaded, and it’s going to be a huge challenge for us.”
Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green provides one of the biggest challenges to the Browns’ defense, in particular, to defensive back
Green has turned 65 of quarterback Andy Dalton’s passes into 1,013 yards and six touchdowns through 10 games this season. In five career games against the Browns, Green has turned 25 catches into 395 yards and four touchdowns.
“He’s one of the top receivers in the league, and if Dalton throws the ball up to him, a lot of times, he’s going to be able to make a play,” Haden said. “It’s just the same thing. He’s a really talented player, and we have to make sure we pay attention to him.
“He’s out there doing it and helping his team. The whole thing is whenever he comes here, or whenever we play A.J. or people of his caliber, we just make sure we stay on top. We make sure he doesn’t affect the game like that. He’s a really, really good player, but at the same time, we pay an extra little attention to him to make sure he doesn’t do that to us.”
Haden limited Green to 51 yards on seven receptions in the last meeting, but Green has surpassed the 100-yard plateau in each of the last five weeks.
“They love the game,” Haden said of the wide receivers he has defended this year. “I love the game. We’re really good competitors. After we’re off the field, you can sit down, talk. You can hang out, but it’s just between that game, you’re going at it.”
During the Bengals’ two-game losing streak, Dalton has been sacked 10 times for 66 lost yards and the Bengals have turned the ball over seven times, six of which have been interceptions.
“We’ll have opportunities,” linebacker
“He’s been a good player since he’s been there. I have a lot of respect for him and that team. For us, it’s just going to be about executing the game plan, playing fast and playing the way we’ve been playing.”
While the Browns’ defense contends with the combination of Dalton and Green, the offense will work against a front seven that has led a Bengals defense to 26 sacks for 156 lost yards in the first 10 games of the season.
Despite the loss of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins to a season-ending injury on Nov. 3, the Bengals have filled in the void with second-year defensive tackle Brandon Thompson.
Thompson has registered 33 total tackles, including 17 solo stops, and 1.5 sacks for 12.5 lost yards this year.
“They’ve got so much depth on their defensive line that they can lose a guy and have very, very talented players to put in there,” six-time Pro Bowl left tackle
“It’s only his second year, and he hasn’t gotten his opportunity because he’s been sitting behind Geno, but the stuff he has been putting on film, I think he can be a star in the NFL. It’s definitely not going to be easy because Geno’s not there.”