CINCINNATI (AP) — Nobody wants to be the Browns’ first-and-only.
Last season, it was the San Diego Chargers. They went to Cleveland and lost 20-17 in the second-to-last game of the season, the only team the Browns would beat.
There were tears of relief in the Cleveland locker room. The stunned Chargers were speechless.
Ten games into this season, the Browns (0-10) are in the same predicament, still trying to get that first win. Every team that plays them now has the same thing in mind: Don’t be that team.
“They’re having a problem right now with finishing games,” Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said. “I don’t want it to start with us.”
The Bengals (4-6) can’t afford to be that team. A 20-17 victory in Denver — their first there since franchise founder Paul Brown was the head coach — kept them on the periphery of playoff contention.
A victory over the Browns would extend their possibilities for one more week heading into a Monday night game against the Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium.
A loss would essentially end the Bengals’ playoff aspirations and start the cycle of speculation about whether the head coach and the quarterback will be around for another year — essentially, what goes on at the other end of the state all the time.
A win would give the Browns a chance to finally feel good about something as December approaches.
“I think that whether you are 0-8, 0-9 or 0-10, the only thing that is on our mind right now is getting that first W,” Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer said.
Ohio’s NFL matchup has become a moment of desperation all-around. As Browns coach Hue Jackson put it early in the week: “Lord have mercy.”
Some things to watch on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium:
COACHING MISERY: Browns fans are wondering if Jackson will survive another horrific season — he’s 1-25 in two years in Cleveland. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is playing out his contract and might be gone after 15 seasons if Cincinnati doesn’t make a strong finish . The two are friends and talk regularly.
“There’s a lot of things that he’s told me in the last couple weeks,” Jackson said. “One is obviously just to hang in there and keep pushing and keep believing in what you know, and eventually things will turn. I’ve heard that now for quite a while. That gets a little redundant at times, but I do appreciate the advice.”
DALTON’S BEST DAY: The Bengals got their first win of the season in Cleveland during Week 4. Andy Dalton completed 16 consecutive passes and finished 25 of 30 for 286 yards and four touchdowns in a 31-7 victory.
The Browns stayed with their base defense, and Dalton took advantage of openings in the middle of the field, completing six passes to tight end Tyler Kroft for 68 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Dalton expects the Browns to take a different approach in the rematch.
“It’s like every week they’re doing something different,” Dalton said. “We wouldn’t expect them to stay the same, but who knows?”
McCARRON ON THE (BENGALS) SIDELINE: In addition to their on-field setbacks, the Browns whiffed on their attempt to trade for Bengals backup quarterback AJ McCarron on Oct. 31 , failing to submit the required paperwork before the trade deadline.
McCarron hasn’t played a snap. Barring an injury to Dalton, he’ll watch from the sideline as his current team and the one that tried to get him go at it.
COLEMAN’S COMEBACK: Receiver Corey Coleman gave the Browns an offensive spark and some hope in last week’s 19-7 loss to Jacksonville. In his first game since breaking his right hand in Week 2, Coleman finished with six catches for 80 yards against the league’s top-ranked defense. With Coleman on the field, the Browns have another player capable of turning a short pass into a long gain. And with Josh Gordon’s potential return on Dec. 3 after being suspended the past two seasons, the Browns could have a one-two combination to keep defenses honest.
UP-AND-DOWN KIZER: Cleveland’s rookie quarterback had a setback last week after two solid performances. The 21-year-old had four turnovers — two interceptions, two lost fumbles — and was especially tough on himself afterward, saying it was the first time all season where he felt he hadn’t progressed. On Sunday, he gets a second chance at the Bengals — the first time he’s faced a team twice.
“For me, this will be the first opportunity for me to step out there and learn from my mistakes at that time,” he said. “Now, I believe I have grown a lot since then and look forward to making corrections from that game, understanding what they have done since that game and properly preparing myself for that game.”
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