First Quarter Coming To a Close

Marvin Lewis is like every other coach in the NFL. Lewis talks about the importance of being able to take it "one game at a time" but he also knows the Bengals are entering a critical stretch of their season, one that won't allow them many more second chances.

And he's also confident that one win today at home against Cleveland will give the Bengals the chance to get going in the right direction.

"I got home (last Monday night) and saw part of the end of the San Diego game (against the Jets), and they went from not having a chance in the world to being in the Super Bowl race," said Lewis. "It's what have you done for me lately. We need to get a win, and that's why it's a very important game for us."

A win today against the Browns and the Bengals finish the first quarter of the season 1-3. Three of their next four games come on the road, including at Dallas, which through the first month of the season has turned into this year's league juggernaut ala New England of last season.

The lone home game is against Pittsburgh on Oct. 19. The Bengals have not beaten the Steelers at home since 2001, a string of seven games that includes a loss in the AFC playoffs after the 2005 season.

"I always look at depending on the schedule, not necessarily quarters, but depending on the schedule, where we're playing and so forth," said Lewis. "I thought it was important to get off to a good start and we didn't do that yet."

The Bengals have road games against the Jets on Oct. 12 and at Houston on Oct. 26. After that, they don't travel any farther than Pittsburgh and will have five home games, plus a bye week. The combined record of their three opponents (Baltimore, Tennessee and New York Giants) thus far this season is 8-0.

"That's what happens when you get your butt whupped," said Lewis. "Look at the fact; I don't think people would have thought those teams would have been where they are, but that's how the NFL is. We reshuffle them and throw them out there.

"People end up in a little different spot than people think they should be. You have to keep working, because it's the body of work that matters and not the first part. It's important to get off to a good start because it gives you some mulligans at some point. It's your body of work is what matters."

RETURN OF UTECHT? – The Bengals could get back the services of tight end Ben Utecht against the Browns. The team's key offensive free agent signee this past offseason has missed all but one play of the last two games with a bruised sternum. He suffered that on Sept. 14 against Tennessee on a hit from Titans linebacker David Thornton on the Bengals first play of the game.

Lewis said Friday that Utecht had a good week of practice, although the head coach would not give an absolute verdict on whether or not Utecht would play Sunday. Utecht was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday but participated fully in workouts Friday.

BENGAL KILLER – Cleveland running back Jamal Lewis loves playing against the Bengals. That's an understatement.

In 13 career games against Cincinnati, first as a member of the Baltimore Ravens and now with the Browns, Lewis has gained 1,551 yards, averaged 5.5 yards per carry and scored 10 rushing touchdowns. He rushed for 216 yards on 27 carries in the Browns' 51-45 win against the Bengals at Cleveland last season.

Lewis has nine career 100-yard games against the Bengals.

That will come into play today. The Bengals are 28th in the league against the rush defensively, allowing an average of 174.3 yards per game. Their biggest issue has been their penchant to give up the big play. Already this season they've allowed more than five runs of 15 or more yards, including three runs of greater than 38 yards.

BROWNS BASHER – On the flip-side, Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer has always been glad to see the Browns. In eight games against Cleveland, Palmer has completed 64.7 percent of his passes (174-of-269) for an average of 239.4 yards per game, with 20 touchdowns and a 90.3 passer rating. The Bengals are 6-2 against the Browns since Palmer took over as starter in 2004.

The one problem Palmer has had against the Browns is that he's thrown 13 of his career 66 interceptions against Cleveland.

"You can't expect anything in rivalry games," said Palmer. "We've had had shootouts with them, we've had low-scoring defensive struggles. You can't prepare for one or the other. You can't expect one or the other. You just need to come out and worry about yourself and you need to worry about it as an offense, and worry about communication issues we're going to have with the fronts they have and worry about the issues just as far as stepping right and getting our eyes in the right place, and seeing the right things, because you don't know what to expect really."


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