Browns 27

(5-5, 3-2 away)

Bengals 20

(1-9, 0-5 home)

Coverage: CBS

1:00 PM ET, November 17, 2002


1 2 3 4 T
CLE 14 3 7 327
CIN 7 7 3 320

Couch leads Browns to victory

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

Allen's Analysis
Eric Allen
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.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Scoring Summary

Drive info: 3 plays, 76 yds, 0:00
Drive info: 3 plays, 76 yds, 0:00
cleFG11:00Phil Dawson 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 4 plays, 22 yds, 0:10
cinFG11:00Neil Rackers 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 9 plays, 48 yds, 2:29
Drive info: 9 plays, 66 yds, 3:37
Drive info: 9 plays, 66 yds, 3:37
cinTD14:19Jon Kitna, 3 yd run
Drive info: 9 plays, 68 yds, 11:57
cinFG14:42Neil Rackers 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 8 plays, 55 yds, 12:03
Drive info: 9 plays, 68 yds, 11:57
Drive info: 10 plays, 65 yds, 2:07
cleFG0:39Phil Dawson 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 11 plays, 58 yds, 3:51
Drive info: 10 plays, 65 yds, 2:07
Drive info: 12 plays, 80 yds, 6:46
Drive info: 12 plays, 80 yds, 6:46