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Published: Monday, 9/29/2003

Browns notebook: Couch laments one that got away

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
An offensive lineman protects Cleveland quarterback Tim Couch as he stands in the pocket. Couch completed 23 of 36 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns. An offensive lineman protects Cleveland quarterback Tim Couch as he stands in the pocket. Couch completed 23 of 36 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns.
KING / BLADE Enlarge

CLEVELAND -- Tim Couch would have liked a do-over on his final pass yesterday but said he was otherwise satisfied with his first start of the season.

The Cleveland starter for four years, Couch lost the job this year to Kelly Holcomb, who sat this one out because of a hairline fracture in his right leg.

Couch completed 23 of 36 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns, but Cincinnati preserved a 21-14 victory with a late interception.

“I'd love to have that one back,” Couch said. “I was going to [tight end Steve] Heiden in the flats, but [cornerback Jeff] Burris came up, so I tried to throw it over the top to Kevin Johnson. I didn't get enough on it. It was just a bad throw and it floated on me. It was a horrible mistake.”

Said Johnson: “The defender did a good job. He acted like he was dropping back in coverage. It was a good play by him. Tim Couch did a good job and by no means is it his fault we lost. He came out and played hard and stayed within himself and took what the defense gave him.”

Couch said he was “not upset with my performance other than the last pass. But I'm not going to get into any quarterback debate. I'll just play when my number is called. If Kelly gets healthy and gets back on the field, it's his job.”

Coach Butch Davis said it would be “premature to speculate” who would be the starting quarterback next Sunday night when the Browns play at Pittsburgh.

FIRST WIN: Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, who saw his team play well in recent losses to Oakland and Pittsburgh, got his first win as a head coach in his team's fourth game.

“It has been a great day,” he said. “You start to wonder when you are going to get one. But, to me, this is more important to our team than to me. They've bought into everything we've been doing. They worked extremely hard and they reaped some rewards today.”

DILLON'S DAY: Bengals running back Corey Dillon carried four times for 20 yards before being sidelined by a recurring groin injury. He said it may be a while before he plays again.

“I have to get this thing right,”he said. “Each week I keep coming out and playing on it, which means I'm not going to get healthy.”

Dillon was disappointed by having to sit out. He was averaging 117 yards per game in his last eight outings against Cleveland.

“I was gaining yards, but I was out there in pain,” he said.

Little-used Rudi Johnson took over for Dillon and was the game's leading rusher with 51 yards on 15 carries.

THREE-DOT DATA: Cleveland's William Green got 47 yards on 16 carries and Couch was pressured all day, not a good sign for the Browns' offensive line ... Meanwhile, the Bengals' Jon Kitna was barely touched by the Browns' defense. “They mixed in a lot of run, some play action and had max protection with three-steep drops, so it was tough to rush against them,” Davis said ... Cincinnati was guilty of a whopping eight offside penalties, but did not commit a turnover.



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