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Bengals win in lackluster game, 24-14

CINCINNATI – Nearly one full quarter without a first down by either team.

Monday, October 15, 2001

CINCINNATI – Nearly one full quarter without a first down by either team.

Remarkable? Not in this game. The Browns and Bengals couldn’t do much of anything right in their latest poke-in-the-eye reunion.

Penalties piled up, quarterbacks slammed into their own running backs, fumbles squirted everywhere. The only constant was Corey Dillon.

The running back who does his best against the Browns had his best game of the season. Dillon ran for a season-high 140 yards and a decisive fourth-quarter touchdown Sunday as Cincinnati beat Cleveland 24-14.

”I don’t think we like each other,” Dillon said. ”If they’d have won, I’m sure they would have been popping champagne corks.”

The upstart Browns (3-2) came to town with their first three-game winning streak since they returned to the NFL in 1999. For most of the afternoon, they played like an expansion team.

Cleveland rushed for only 40 yards and Tim Couch couldn’t do anything against a defense missing its best player. Linebacker Takeo Spikes missed the game because of his father’s death in Georgia.

”They shut us down,” said Couch, who threw for 194 yards and two touchdowns. ”I didn’t get into a rhythm. I don’t think anyone got into a rhythm. We were totally out of sync.”

In the first half, the Browns’ defense also did a nice job on Dillon, who hadn’t come close to 100 yards since the season opener. Neil Rackers missed a 22-yard field goal attempt just before halftime, leaving the Browns ahead 7-3 and the Bengals staring at a make-or-break moment.

After losing two in a row on the road, the Bengals were getting booed at home.

”Coming off those losses on the road, we didn’t want people to start thinking we’re the same old Bengals again,” Dillon said.

The crowd of 64,217 – the largest ever for a sporting event in Cincinnati – watched a Browns-Bengals game get decided the same old way. Dillon took over in the second half, running for 72 yards and a 5-yard touchdown that put the Bengals in control early in the fourth quarter.

Cincinnati had a season-high 400 yards against a defense that hadn’t given up 250 yards in any of its first four games.

”Dillon was a big hand in what they did,” cornerback Daylon McCutcheon said. ”We knew we’d have to gang-tackle him and wrap him up, but he did what he’s known for.”

He’s known for having huge games against Cleveland. In 1999, he ran for 168 and 192 yards against the first-year Browns. Last season, he had 137 in a game.

The Browns’ shortcomings didn’t stop with the defense. They set up one field goal with a penalty – Percy Ellsworth hit Jon Kitna in the head after he released a fourth-down pass – and set up another when Couch collided with James Jackson on a handoff, causing a fumble.

The Browns had three fumbles, nine penalties and numerous missed tackles.

”I thought we lost our composure a little bit,” coach Butch Davis said. ”For the first time all season, we kind of got caught up in some of the emotion where in the past, we played with a lot of poise and walked away from the pushing and shoving. We kind of got distracted a little bit today.”

The Bengals also were sloppy and distracted, but Dillon and their defense got them a win and their best start since 1990, the last time they had a winning record.

”It was very important for us to get stabilized and get things back to the way they were going,” coach Dick LeBeau said.

Notes: Browns WR Kevin Johnson had eight catches for 153 yards, his fourth career 100-yard game. … The Browns converted only 2 of 11 third downs. … Bengals CB Rodney Heath tore his left hamstring while making a tackle and is out for the season. Rookie WR Chad Johnson broke his collar bone and will be sidelined for six weeks. … The Bengals have won their last five home games.