Browns Defense Stops Dillon, Bengals

By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - Shutouts are rare in the NFL, and in the case of the Cleveland Browns, nonexistent for seven years.

Until Sunday.

The Browns forced seven turnovers -- five on interceptions -- and got their first shutout since 1994 with an 18-0 victory over the bumbling Cincinnati Bengals.

"My first one, too," Cleveland linebacker Dwayne Rudd said proudly. "At least my first one in a long, long time."

Phil Dawson kicked four field goals, Kevin Johnson caught a touchdown pass and the Browns (6-4) didn't need much offense to beat the Bengals, who have been outscored 68-20 in losing their last three games.

Cincinnati's troubles didn't end when the game finished.

The Bengals' charter jet was grounded by mechanical problems at Cleveland's Hopkins International Airport, and the team was forced to ride buses back to Cincinnati.

"We just feel terrible about ourselves," Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna said before boarding the plane.

Kitna was benched for Scott Mitchell after completing just eight of 19 passes and throwing two interceptions in the first half.

Cleveland came in focused on stopping running back Corey Dillon, who had averaged 144 yards in his five previous games against the Browns. Despite missing suspended tackle Gerard Warren, the Browns held Dillon to 63 yards on 20 carries.

"Cincy goes as Corey Dillon goes," linebacker Jamir Miller said. "We knew if we could contain him, that we'd have a pretty good chance. Once we did that, we could really go after them."

The shutout was the Browns' first since blanking Arizona 32-0 on Sept. 18, 1994. And with five more interceptions, Cleveland now leads the league with 25 picks, after getting just 20 in the last two seasons combined.

Browns coach Butch Davis, a former defensive coordinator, was particularly proud of the shutout - just the fifth in the league this season.

"It's a great compliment to a great defensive effort," Davis said. "You can play the same, and if it's 18-7, you don't feel the same."

Johnson caught a 6-yard TD pass in the first half and Dawson kicked field goals of 23, 27, 22 and 33 yards as the Browns avenged an early season loss to the Bengals.

Tim Couch went 16-of-27 for 189 yards with two interceptions for Cleveland.

Cincinnati's best scoring chance ended like all of the Bengals' other drives -- with nothing.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, T.J. Houshmandzadeh returned a punt 86 yards before being caught from behind at Cleveland's 5. But instead of giving Dillon the ball on first down, Mitchell threw an incomplete pass.

Dillon carried twice, picking up three yards, and the Bengals decided to go for it on fourth down. Mitchell, one of the NFL's slowest QBs, tried to roll left, but was sacked for a 9-yard loss by Courtney Brown and Rudd.

"When we got the fourth-down stop, we felt like we could put the goose egg up," Brown said.

It wasn't tough to do with the Bengals giving Dillon the ball just six times in the second half.

"That's the best guy on their offense," Browns safety Earl Little said. "Why not give him the ball?"

Dillon didn't speak to reporters after the game.

Bengals coach Dick LeBeau benched Kitna at the start of the third quarter. Mitchell, who had not taken a snap this season, finished 4-of-12 for 38 yards.

Neil Rackers missed two field goals for the Bengals, whose promising 2-0 start has quickly faded.

"There's a little bit of doubt in everybody's mind right now," Kitna said. "That's what happens when you're not playing well."

The Browns got inside the Bengals' 20 four times in the first half, but didn't get their first touchdown until just 26 seconds before halftime.

Kitna was picked off by Ray Jackson, who returned it 52 yards to the Cincinnati 10. Two plays later, Couch hit Johnson in the corner of the end zone over backup cornerback Kevin Kaeshivarn.

Notes: The Browns lead the "Battle of Ohio" 29-28. ... Cincinnati is 0-35 in road games against teams with a winning record since 1990. ... Dawson missed the PAT following Johnson's TD, snapping his streak of 51 straight. ... Bengals WR Peter Warrick bruised his left shoulder in the first half and did not return. ... Four of Johnson's five 100-yard career receiving games have come against Cincinnati.

(Copyright 2001 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)