<
>

Couch leads Browns to victory

11/17/2002

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Chad Johnson dropped his head and covered his
face with a black-gloved hand as the jubilant Cleveland Browns
walked his way.

Question on the Browns: If they can get 140 rushing yards per game (today's total), can they stay in the playoff picture?
Yes. Only Cincinnati is out of the hunt in the AFC North. But something seems to be missing on the Browns. I don't see the camaraderie or a common identity that they rally around. They seem scattered, which will affect them down the road. You need to be a united team with a single focus to reach the playoffs.

Question on the Bengals: Have we heard the last of the "guarantees" from them?
I think so. The sight of Bengals WR Chad Johnson (who guaranteed a win today) leaving the field in tears is not one we want to see again anytime soon. So I think the days of guaranteed wins -- especially when you're the Bengals -- is over.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

Now, they were going to do the talking. Guaranteed.

Tim Couch matched his career high with three touchdown passes
and the Browns' defense stopped Corey Dillon twice from the 1-yard
line in the closing minutes, preserving a 27-20 victory over the
Cincinnati Bengals.

Johnson provided a grudge Sunday by guaranteeing a win, just as
he did before the Bengals (1-9) beat the Houston Texans. This time,
his boldness backfired.

"I told him there's nothing wrong with that, but some comments
you've got to keep to yourself,'' said Browns linebacker Earl Holmes, who sought him out on the field. "You can't guarantee a
victory. It came back to smack him in the face.''

The Browns (5-5) stayed in playoff contention by stopping Dillon
twice from point-black range.

Brandon Bennett returned a kickoff to the 7-yard line with the
Browns leading 27-20 and the sharply divided crowd of 64,060
sensing a chance for the upset.

Dillon ran the ball twice to get to the 1, then was tripped up
by Holmes as he went off right tackle. On fourth-and-goal from a
foot away, the Bengals sent Dillon to the right once again behind
tackle Willie Anderson.

Darren Hambrick hit Dillon first, and Holmes shoved him back for
no gain with 5:51 left. It was the same spot on the field where
Dillon tripped over his blocker and came up inches short in a 30-24
loss to Tennessee on Oct. 27.

"On second down, we got it in there close,'' coach Dick LeBeau
said. "We ran our best back behind our best blocker, and we didn't
make it.''

A group of Browns fans unfurled a banner behind the Cleveland
bench that read, "I Love Mike Brown.'' Their celebration was a
little premature.

As with practically all Browns games, this one came down to a
final play.

The Bengals got the ball at their 11 with 1:41 to go and no
timeouts, and Dillon cost them by turning upfield instead of
getting out of bounds after a reception. Peter Warrick was tackled
at the Browns 24 after a catch, and the clock ran out before the
Bengals could line up for a throw into the end zone.

Quincy Morgan was the first Browns player to reach Johnson, who
got a consoling hug. Johnson was crestfallen but not the least bit
contrite in the aftermath of his prediction.

"I'll do it again,'' Johnson said. "I'm not going to say when,
but I'll do it again. I'm not going to say we had it today, but we
competed. We had every chance to win.''

Johnson did his part, catching a 72-yard touchdown pass from Jon Kitna on the game's third play. He had 103 yards on four catches in
all.

While Dillon couldn't get a yard when he needed it, Browns
rookie William Green finally got more than 2.3 yards per carry.
Green, a first-round pick, carried 25 times for a career-best 96
yards.

"I kept waiting for him to have a breakout game because he
looked so good in practice,'' Couch said. "He's got so much
talent. I went through it myself, being a first-round draft choice
and people saying you're the guy they shouldn't have picked. Willie
is going to make a name for himself.''

Couch was 22-of-35 for 242 yards and steadied the Browns out of
a poor start. He threw touchdown passes of 14 yards to Darnell
Sanders and 15 yards to Andre' Davis as Cleveland went up 17-14 at
halftime.

His 13-yard touchdown pass to Dennis Northcutt late in the third
quarter snapped a 17-17 tie.

Couch missed the Browns' 20-7 victory in Cleveland on Sept. 15
because he was recovering from elbow tendinitis. He was 22-of-35
for 242 yards with one interception and no sacks Sunday, making
accurate throws all game.

"I'd say the last three or four games, I've begun to feel a lot
more confident and comfortable,'' Couch said. "I have a lot more
confidence in my arm right now. I feel I can make all the throws
out there now.''

Game notes
Bengals CB Jeff Burris left the game in the first quarter
with a severe headache. Backup Reggie Myles, appearing in his
fourth NFL game, got burned for two of Couch's touchdown passes.
... Cleveland's Phil Dawson missed a 24-yard field goal. Dawson had
been 24-of-24 from inside the 30-yard line during his four-year
career. ... The crowd of 64,060 was the second largest in stadium
history. The Browns and Bengals drew 64,217 last year.