Browns-Bengals: A History of Surprises

One thing you can expect from the Battle of Ohio: The Unexpected. Steve King runs down the history of rivalry, which is full of twists and turns...

The 1-9 Browns, losers of five straight, are about two-touchdown underdogs for Sunday's game against the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals (7-3) at Paul Brown Stadium.

So they have little chance to win, then, right?

Well, maybe, and maybe not. It could go either way.


Indeed, don't count on this automatically being a rout.

This series, which begin 40 seasons ago, in 1970, when the teams were placed into the Central Division in the newly-formed AFC, has been highlighted by the favored team either being upset down the stretch, or having to fight for its life to avoid have that happen to them.

There have also been a number of notable games for other reasons.

Here's a look:

*1970 – The Bengals, in just their third season of existence and after having lost 30-27 at Cleveland a month earlier, took control in the division with a 14-10 win over the Browns, who had been to the last two NFL Championship Games before the merger with the AFL. It drew the largest crowd ever to Riverfront Stadium.

*1971 – The visiting 9-5 Browns won 31-27 over the defending Central champs (4-10) to take charge in the division.

*1972 – The 10-4 Browns needed an interception near the goal line in the waning seconds by linebacker Billy Andrews to defeat the host 8-6 Bengals 27-24 and all but clinch the AFC's lone wild-card berth.

*1975 – After a club-record nine straight losses to start the season, the host Browns won 35-23 over a Bengals team that went 11-3 and earned the wild card.

*1977 – The Browns were cruising along at 5-2 at the halfway point and were ready to take charge in the division, but a 10-7 loss at Cleveland put them into a tailspin from which they never recovered as they went 1-6 and finished 6-8, causing head coach Forrest Gregg to be fired with a game left.

*1978 – The host 4-12 Bengals earned their most lopsided decision ever in the series, putting a 48-16 crushing on a Browns team that finished 8-8 and had stayed in the playoff hunt almost to the end.

*1979 – The Gregg-coached Bengals, 4-12 once more, pulled off a 16-12 stunner over the 9-7 Browns at Cincinnati, putting the final nail into the coffin of Cleveland's playoff chances.

*1980 – The 6-10 Bengals had the ball at the Cleveland 14 when time expired as the 11-5 Browns won 27-24 at Cincinnati to clinch the AFC Central title.

*1984 – The 8-8 Bengals defeated the 5-11 Browns twice by three points, including a 12-9 decision on the final play at Cincinnati at the halfway point that caused head coach Sam Rutigliano, whose team had been picked to win the division, to get fired.

*1986 – After getting routed 30-13 by the Bengals at Cleveland on national television early in the season, the Browns had some concerns for the return match in the next-to-last week, but those fears were unwarranted when the club, which eventually finished a conference-best 12-4, rolled 34-3 over the 10-6 Bengals.

*1989 – The 8-8 Bengals beat the 9-6-1 division champion Browns twice, including 21-0 at Cleveland late in the year.

*1990 – The Bengals (9-7) needed a trick play near the end to score the game-winning TD in a 21-14, division championship-clinching decision over the Browns, who finished a then franchise-worst 3-13.

*1995 – The Browns' 29-26 overtime win at Cincinnati at the halfway point gave them hope, but that hope became null and void five days later when the news leaked of the franchise's impending move to Baltimore after the season. The Browns (5-11) won just one more game the rest of the year, a 26-10 decision over the Bengals (2-14) in their home finale.

*2002 – The Browns needed a late goal-line stand to hold off the 2-14 Bengals 27-20 at Cincinnati en route to going 9-7 and earning a wild-card berth, their lone trip to the playoffs in the expansion era.

*2003 – After losing 21-14 early in the year, the 5-11 Browns stunned the 8-8 Bengals at Cincinnati in the finale and denied them a spot in the playoffs.

*2004 – The Browns (4-12) won 34-17 in the first meeting, but then lost 58-48 at Cincinnati (8-8) as the teams set all kinds of scoring records, causing head coach Butch Davis to resign about 26 hours later.

*2005 -- The 11-5 division champion Bengals, who had won in a breeze, 27-13, at Cleveland in the opener, needed some questionable calls at the end to hold off the 6-10 Browns, 23-20.

*2007 – The Browns stunned the Bengals 51-45 at Cleveland in Week 2, but then Cincinnati (7-9) returned the favor with a 19-14 upset in the next-to-last game. Had the Browns won, then they would have clinched a playoff spot, but they eventually finished 10-6 and missed out.

So while it appears at first glance that the Browns have no shot on Sunday, history tells us that they actually do.

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