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Published: Monday, 11/26/2001

Browns notebook: Stopping Dillon is key

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Cleveland's Kevin Johnson catches the game's only touchdown in the second quarter against Cincinnati's Kevin Kaesviham, left, and Darryl Williams. Johnson caught six passes for 113 yards. Cleveland's Kevin Johnson catches the game's only touchdown in the second quarter against Cincinnati's Kevin Kaesviham, left, and Darryl Williams. Johnson caught six passes for 113 yards.
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CLEVELAND - Since the Cleveland Browns returned to the NFL in 1999, there has been a pretty simple formula involved in their series against in-state rival Cincinnati.

If Corey Dillon runs for 100 or more yards, the Bengals win. If the Browns prevent that, they win.

Yesterday, Dillon was checked with 63 yards, including just seven yards on six second-half carries, and the Browns claimed an 18-0 victory.

Dillon has averaged 170 yards per game rushing in Cincinnati's four wins over the Browns and accounted for 140 of his team's 199 yards on the ground during last month's win over Cleveland at Paul Brown Stadium.

"When we lose a game, we always feel like it's us that caused it, not them," said Cleveland cornerback Corey Fuller. "Dillon got away from us last time. We just wanted to close the gaps this time and be in the right places. Like always, they wanted to run the ball, but they couldn't do it. Not today."

AND VICE VERSA: Browns receiver Kevin Johnson has a track record against the Bengals similar to Dillon's against Cleveland.

Johnson posted his fifth career 100-yard receiving game yesterday and four of them have come in games against Cincinnati.

He caught six passes from Tim Couch for 113 yards, an average of 18.8 yards per catch, and the game's only touchdown.

"(The Bengals) were trying to put a lot of guys in the box to stop the run," Johnson said. "Couch did an excellent job of checking off to our routes into man coverage and we made some plays. We know as wide receivers we have an advantage over their defensive backs and we just wanted to exploit those mismatches as best we could."

Johnson's teammate, rookie Quincy Morgan, added a career-high five catches.

LONG SKID: Incredible as it may seem, Cincinnati has not won a road game against a team with a winning record since the 1990 season when the Bengals beat Pittsburgh, which entered that game at 6-5, in Three Rivers Stadium.

Yesterday's loss to the Browns, now 6-4, marked Cincinnati's 35th consecutive road loss against an opponent with a winning record.

CUT-RATE: If there's a quarterback controversy in Cincinnati, it's the wrong kind. Yesterday, starter Jon Kitna played for one half and compiled a dismal 16.2 quarterback rating (8-19, 85 yards, two interceptions) that looked absolutely lofty compared to backup Scott Mitchell's rating.

Playing most of the second half, Mitchell, a one-time Detroit Lion, completed 4 of 12 passes for 38 yards and was intercepted three times, which translated to a 3.5 quarterback rating that is certainly among the lowest ever recorded.

"The Browns played well," Mitchell said, deflecting a question about his own performance. "They took our offense out of groove. They got some turnovers and made better plays."

THREE-DOT DATA: The Browns lead the series 29-28 ... The Browns returned five interceptions a total of 118 yards ... Cleveland's Phil Dawson was 4-for-4 in field goals on a windy day, tying a single-game career best, but he missed his only PAT kick, snapping a streak of 51 straight. ... With two misses, Cincinnati kicker Neil Rackers dipped to an even .500 - 9 of 18 - on field goal attempts. ... The shutout was Cleveland's first since a 32-0 victory over Arizona in 1994 ... The Browns are 6-4. They were a combined 5-27 in 1999 and 2000 after returning to the NFL. ... The Bengals are 4-6 and have lost three straight.



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