Cincinnati (5-5) at Cleveland (3-7)
November 25, 2006 7:43pm CST
Chad Johnson, Carson Palmer and the Cincinnati Bengals passing game have piled up some impressive numbers over the past two weeks. So have their opponents. Fixing that flaw should be made easier on Sunday for the Bengals, facing one of the league's worst passing attacks as they try to beat the rival Cleveland Browns for a fifth straight time. Palmer threw three touchdown passes to Johnson as Cincinnati (5-5) snapped a three-game losing streak with a 31-16 road victory over New Orleans last Sunday. Palmer threw for 275 yards, one week after setting a career high with 440 in a 49-41 loss to San Diego. He's tied for third in the league with 18 TD passes, and the Bengals rank sixth with 241.3 passing yards per game. Johnson had six catches for 190 yards last week after making 11 receptions for a franchise-record 260 yards and two TDs against the Chargers. "Chad and I have worked together a lot, not just during the season," Palmer said. "We understand each other. I understand how Chad runs certain routes and know he's always looking for that big play if he can get behind the defense." Johnson, though, hadn't made many big plays until the last two games. He had not surpassed the 100-yard mark in any of Cincinnati's first eight games while getting held to two touchdowns. However, after setting an NFL record by totaling 450 receiving yards in back-to-back games, Johnson has jumped into the league lead with 932. The record for three consecutive games is 612 yards, set by Houston's Charley Hennigan in the AFL in 1961. "I'm trying to be as consistent as possible, trying to make sure I do all I can to make sure we come up out of this hole and make this run," said Johnson, whose team had lost each of its previous three games by eight points or less. Cincinnati's pass defense, meanwhile, ranks last in the league by allowing 254.4 yards per game. That unit surrendered 338 yards to San Diego's Phillip Rivers before giving up 510 -- the sixth-highest passing total in NFL history -- to New Orleans' Drew Brees. However, the Bengals had three interceptions last Sunday as they forced four turnovers. They hadn't caused one during the three-game skid. "Defensively, it's been a long time since we've created turnovers and whatnot," linebacker Rashad Jeanty said. "You don't want 500 yards going against you on defense. We've got to tighten up." Cincinnati's defense hopes to take advantage of Cleveland's 24th-ranked passing attack, averaging 173.9 yards per game. Browns quarterback Charlie Frye is 26th in passer rating at 73.8, throwing nine TD passes and 12 interceptions. Cleveland has given up 39 sacks, second-most in the league behind Oakland (48), and Frye has been sacked five times in each of the past three weeks. Frye did throw for 224 yards last Sunday, including a career-high 137 for Braylon Edwards, but the Browns blew a late 10-point lead in a 24-20 loss to Pittsburgh. The Cleveland offense failed to find the end zone as the team got its touchdowns off Daven Holly's 57-yard interception return and Joshua Cribbs 92-yard kick return. The Browns defense allowed 21 fourth-quarter points. "We know we're 3-7, but there's a division game coming and there's two home games coming," Cleveland coach Romeo Crennel said. "This is a resilient group we have. They're going to bounce back and play hard. I don't quit. My guys don't quit." The Browns defense, though, has had its share of problems against the Bengals. Cincinnati has averaged 35.5 points in winning the last four meetings, and will notch its longest winning streak in the 36-year history of this series with a victory Sunday. The all-time series is even at 33 wins apiece. Cincinnati's Rudi Johnson, coming off his third 100-yard rushing game of the season and first in four weeks, has run for an average of 160.5 yards with six touchdowns in the past four meetings. He had 145 yards with two TDs in the Bengals' 34-17 home win over the Browns on Sept. 17.