BEREA, Ohio — The Battle of Ohio is a rivalry game that has become increasingly heated, and with the second chapter of the season approaching, the Browns are getting ready—and excited—to take on the Bengals.
Safety John Johnson III knows that all division games have that heat, but the Bengals matchup has a little extra competitive edge lately. From off-season trash talk between the Bengals receivers and Browns secondary to the Browns 5-game winning streak against Cincinnati, the rivalry has ignited.
"I mean that's one game we want to show out. They got talkative guys over there so it's kind of like a competitive match up and as football players you want to compete. So that's like a prime match up and we enjoy it," Johnson said. "I would say just the aura of this game is kind of like a ticky-tacky, chitter-chattery game. But on the field, it's just all about competing."
On the field, receivers like Bengals star Ja'Marr Chase tend to chirp at Browns defenders. The Browns have chirped back, Denzel Ward giving credit to Greg Newsome II for being the most chatty back.
But this past matchup saw Chase sidelined with injury before he could test the waters of his offseason trash-talk. Now, with Chase healthy and back in the mix, the defense will have a much different look than in Week 8.
"He is dynamic. Any time he touches it, he can go. He can catch a slant, he can catch a go ball or they can throw him a wide receiver screen. He can do it all, and he is very, very explosive," head coach Kevin Stefanski said of Chase.
The Browns know that he'll be the threat they need to contain to truly have success against the Bengals.
"He's the guy, they want to get him the ball, he gets the most targets when he's out there, the most receptions. So they're going to scheme him up, try to get him the ball. So it is different. They do similar things but they want to get him the ball so we gotta be aware of it and lock in on it," Johnson said. "He's the heart and soul of that offense. They want to get him the ball and we're up for the challenge."
Last year, the Browns were able to limit Chase to a total of 75 receiving yards, and with five straight wins against the Bengals have lived up to the challenge thus far.
Still, even with that momentum, the Browns would be smart to not get too ahead of themselves. It's a balance of riding a positive wave while still staying grounded and focused on the task at hand. That's a mentality the team is embracing this week as they enter practice leading up to Sunday's game.
"Every game is a new game. You can’t be too high off of the last wins that we were able to get because every game is a new game, it’s about who wins that day, so like I said we gotta find a way to go out there and execute and find a way to get a win at the end of the day," Ward said.
Ward missed practice after speaking to media Wednesday, sidelined with what the team listed as an ankle injury and an illness. Cornerback A.J. Green was sidelined with a knee injury and tackle James Hudson II was out with illness as well.
Good news for the Browns came in the form of tight end David Njoku returning to practice after missing the Texans' game with knee injury sustained near the end of the Buccaneers game. He was limited Wednesday as he works his way back to full-go.
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