The Bengals–Browns rivalry, often referred to as the Battle of Ohio, is a rivalry between the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns of the National Football League (NFL). Both teams are members of the American Football Conference (AFC) North Division, and play two games against each other annually.
Geography and a shared heritage add to this rivalry. Cleveland (Northeast) and Cincinnati (Southwest) are on opposite corners of Ohio, and essentially split Ohio. Both teams were founded by head coach Paul Brown, the namesake of the Browns franchise, who created the Bengals franchise in the American Football League (AFL) after he was fired from the Browns. The colors of each team are similar.
The Bengals and Browns first played in 1970. Previously, the Bengals were a part of the AFL. After the AFL–NFL merger the Bengals and Browns were placed in the AFC Central Division, where they remained until the Browns suspended operations after their relocation to Baltimore and a subsequent new Browns expansion team being awarded to Cleveland. The expansion Browns were also placed in the AFC Central. Both teams moved to the newly-formed AFC North division in 2002 as part of the NFL's realignment.
The Bengals lead the overall series, 50–41. The two teams have never met in the postseason.
The Browns were founded in 1946 as a member of the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) and named after their head coach, Paul Brown. The Browns dominated the AAFC in its four years of existence and joined the NFL in 1950. Brown lead the Browns to three NFL titles in 1950, 1954, and 1955. In 1963, he was fired by new team owner Art Modell.
Brown founded the Bengals, who played their first AFL season in 1968. Two years later, after the AFL-NFL merger, both the Bengals and the Browns were placed in the AFC Central, and met twice every season. Fueled by the hate between Brown and Modell, a rivalry was born.
1970–79: The first meetingsEdit
In the first regular-season matchup between the two teams, the Browns beat the Bengals 30-27. It was an important win for the Browns, who were chastised for losing a preseason game to Cincinnati. Running backs Leroy Kelly and Bo Scott combined for 236 yards, and a fired up defense set the early tone when defensive tackle Walter Johnson sacked Bengals quarterback Virgil Carter for a safety. However, the Bengals got the last laugh that season, beating the Browns in their first meeting in Cincinnati, 14-10. This win helped propel the Bengals, who won their final seven games, to win the AFC Central by one game over the Browns.
Each team had limited success in the 1970s, with the Bengals making three playoff appearances and the Browns making two. Neither team won a playoff game in the decade. The teams split the 20 games during the 1970s, each winning 10.
1980–90: Playoff contendersEdit
Both teams had several playoff runs throughout the 1980s. The Bengals appeared in two Super Bowls during the decade (XVI and XXIII), the only Super Bowl appearances in the history of either Franchise. The Browns played in three AFC Championship games during the decade, but lost each game to the Denver Broncos.
Prior to the 1980 season, the Bengals hired former Browns head coach Forrest Gregg. The Browns beat Gregg and the Bengals in both meetings that year, including a division-clinching 27-24 win in Cincinnati
Because of the 1982 NFL Players Strike, the game in Cleveland that season was cancelled. The Bengals won the only meeting of the year in Cincinnati, 23-10. This marks the only season in which the Browns and Bengals did not meet twice.
On December 14, 1986, the Browns routed the Bengals 34-3 at Riverfront Stadium to clinch the AFC Central division title. The Browns and Bengals battled for the division title throughout the late 1980s, with the Browns winning the AFC Central title in 1986, 1987, and 1989. The Bengals won the division in 1988 and 1990.
On December 10, 1989 in a Bengals home game against the Seattle Seahawks, Bengals fans were throwing snowballs and other debris onto the field at the officials in response to questionable calls. Bengals head coach Sam Wyche got on the stadium's public address system and told the fans: "Will the next person that sees anybody throw anything onto this field, point them out, and get them out of here. You don't live in Cleveland, you live in Cincinnati!" 
Paul Brown ran the Bengals up until his death in August 1991. Through the 1990 season, his Bengals held a 22–19 record against his former team.
1991-95: Browns' dominance and moveEdit
Under head coach Bill Belichick, the Browns dominated the series during these years, going 8–2, including a 7-game winning streak from 1992–95.
On September 4, 1994, the teams opened the season at Riverfront Stadium. The Browns won the game, 28–20, highlighted by an Eric Metcalf 94-yard punt return for a touchdown, a Browns franchise record.
On October 29, 1995, the Browns defeated the Bengals 29–26 in overtime. Browns K Matt Stover kicked five field-goals for the Browns including the overtime game-winner.
On November 6, 1995, Modell announced his intention to relocate the Browns to Baltimore following the season. Most of the team's sponsors pulled their support, leaving Cleveland Municipal Stadium devoid of advertising during the team's final weeks. The Browns defeated the Bengals in the final game played Cleveland Municipal Stadium, 26–10, in the Browns' only win following the announcement of the move.
1999–2010: Browns' return and struggles for both teamsEdit
The Browns returned to the NFL in 1999. Both teams struggled throughout the next decade. The Browns made a playoff appearance in 2002, while the Bengals made it to the playoffs in 2005 and 2009, although neither team won a playoff game during this time. Both teams had years in which they finished with the worst record in the NFL (the Browns in 1999 and the Bengals in 2002), and thus were awarded the top pick in the following year's draft.
On October 10, the teams met for the first time since the Browns' return. The Bengals won the game at the new Cleveland Browns Stadium, 18–17. Rookie quarterback Akili Smith led the Bengals on a 12-play touchdown drive in the final 2:04 to deny the Browns their first win. In that game, Browns kicker Phil Dawson scored a rushing touchdown on a fake field goal play. On December 12, the Bengals defeated the Browns 44–28 in the last game at Riverfront Stadium (at the time renamed Cinergy Field).
The Browns and Bengals opened Paul Brown Stadium on September 10, 2000, a 24–7 Browns' win.
On December 28, 2003 in Cincinnati, the Browns defeated the Bengals 22–14, to knock the Bengals out of playoff contention in the final regular season game.
On November 28, 2004 in Cincinnati, the Bengals defeated the Browns 58–48. The 106 combined points marked the second highest scoring game in NFL history (only behind a 1966 game in which the Washington Redskins defeated the New York Giants 72–41, a total of 113 points). The game saw Bengals running back Rudi Johnson rush for 202 yards and Browns QB Kelly Holcomb pass for 413 yards and five touchdowns. After that game, Browns' head coach Butch Davis resigned amid a long losing streak and disappointing 4–12 season.
The two teams were involved in another very high scoring game, on September 16, 2007, in Cleveland. This time, the Browns were on the winning end, 51–45. The 96 point total is the 11th-highest scoring total in NFL history. In this game, Browns quarterback Derek Anderson passed for 328 yards and 5 touchdowns, while running back Jamal Lewis rushed for 216 yards. On the other side, Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer passed for 401 yards and six touchdowns. Chad Johnson, who caught two of the touchdown passes, had 209 yards receiving.
The Bengals won the rematch that year, 19–14, in Cincinnati. The Browns entered that game at 9–5 and controlled their own playoff destiny. However, Anderson threw four interceptions in the game, leading to most of the Bengals' points. Despite winning their final game and finishing 10–6, the Browns missed the playoffs due to AFC tiebreakers.
On December 29, 2008, the Bengals defeated the Browns 14–0 in Cleveland. This win gave the Bengals a 36–35 lead in the overall series, a lead the Bengals have not yet relinquished.
The Bengals swept the Browns in the 2009 season, while also sweeping the rest of the AFC North en route to a division title. This is the Bengals' first division sweep in franchise history.
2011–present: The Andy Dalton eraEdit
In the 2011 NFL Draft, the Bengals took wide receiver A.J. Green and quarterback Andy Dalton with their first two picks. Dalton made his first career start as a rookie in Cleveland, a 27–17 Bengals win, the first of many dominating performances. Dalton has an 11–4 record against the Browns, passing for 27 touchdowns – seven of which went to Green – against 11 interceptions.
One exception to Dalton's dominance in the rivalry occurred on November 6, 2014, where the Browns defeated the Bengals 24–3 in Cincinnati. Dalton posted a 2.0 quarterback rating, the worst game of his career.
The Bengals won seven meetings in a row from 2014-2017 by a combined score of 213–63. The Bengals scored at least 30 points in six of the seven games, while the Browns have scored 17 or fewer points in each game.
In 2018, the Browns fired head coach Hue Jackson after amassing a 3–36–1 record, including an 0–16 record in 2017. Cincinnati hired Jackson as special assistant to head coach, Marvin Lewis less than a month later. In their first meeting of 2018, Browns rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield, making his eighth career start and his first start against the Bengals in week 12, passed for four touchdowns and led the Browns to a 35–20 win in Cincinnati. In his second career start against the Bengals, Mayfield continued his dominance by throwing for 284 yards and 3 touchdowns in a Browns 26–18 victory in week 16. He also taunted Jackson by staring him down along the sideline.
|Cincinnati Bengals vs. Cleveland Browns Season-by-Season Results|
1970s (Tie, 10–10)
1980s (Bengals, 10–9)
1990s (Browns, 8–6)
2000s (Bengals, 12–8)
2010s (Bengals, 12–6)
Summary of Results
Other rivalries involving teams from Cincinnati and Cleveland
Other rivalries involving the two teams
- "10 most memorable Browns-Bengals games in Cincinnati". Fox Sports. 6 November 2014. Retrieved 24 September 2018.
- on YouTube
- Sandomir, Richard (November 12, 1995). "A City Fights To Save The Browns". The New York Times. Retrieved August 7, 2010.
- "Browns fire head coach Hue Jackson, offensive coordinator Todd Haley". ESPN. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Jackson's 3-36-1 record with the Browns is the worst head-coaching record for one team in NFL history (minimum 40 games).
- Dubin, Jared. "Bengals officially announce hiring of Hue Jackson as 'Special Assistant to the Head Coach'". CBS Sports.
- "Baker Mayfield trolled Hue Jackson with a legendary stare down". For The Win. 2018-12-23. Retrieved 2019-10-03.