- Coley Harvey, ESPN Staff Writer
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CINCINNATI -- There's still about three months until the start of the regular season.
Still, it isn't too early to start previewing the Cincinnati Bengals' year by looking at the past and seeing how they previously fared against the teams they will be facing. Whether they last saw their upcoming opponents one year ago or four, and whether they faced them in the regular season or in the playoffs, there could be something to learn from those meetings.
We began with the first team on the Bengals' 2015 schedule, the Oakland Raiders. Next came the San Diego Chargers. Next came the Baltimore Ravens. Next came the Kansas City Chiefs. Next came the Seattle Seahawks. Next came the Buffalo Bills. Then came the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now, we continue with team No. 8, the Cleveland Browns.
In their most recent outing against the Browns, the Bengals blanked their in-state rivals on the road. Along with running back Jeremy Hill's impressive performance on the ground, Cincinnati's defense was suffocating in Johnny Manziel's first career start:
Date of 2015 meetings: Nov. 5, in Cincinnati; Dec. 6, at Cleveland
Browns' 2014 record: 7-9
All-time series: Bengals lead 44-39
Last time Bengals faced Browns: Cincinnati won, 30-0, on Dec. 14, 2014
How the game was won: It took seven minutes and four seconds for the Bengals to cap the game's opening drive with a touchdown. It turned out, those seven minutes and four seconds would be all they would need in order to beat the Browns in Game 2 of the yearly grudge match.
Game 1 went much differently, as a flustered Andy Dalton had trouble coping with strong winds on a Thursday night in Paul Brown Stadium. Recording a 2.0 passer rating in the 24-3 loss, Dalton played one of the worst games an NFL quarterback has had in some 30 years. His teammates were out to pick him up the next time they played the Browns, though, proving the blowout loss on national television was a fluke. Dalton can thank Hill for helping make that first game a distant memory.
In all, Hill rushed 25 times for 148 yards and two touchdowns. Both rushing scores came during the first half as the Bengals built a 20-0 lead. While Hill and the other ball carriers turned in such a dominating performance -- Cincinnati finished with 244 rushing yards to its 103 passing yards -- the Bengals' defense was similarly strong. Three times the Bengals sacked Manziel, and twice they intercepted him, completely spoiling the rookie's first career start. He had 80 yards passing. Each time Bengals defenders made a key play, they'd let Manziel know, mockingly flashing Manziel's famous money sign gesture that the young quarterback vowed last week to stop. Given the furor over coach Marvin Lewis' characterization of Manziel earlier that week as a "midget," the Bengals played like they had something to prove instead of the other way around.
Although Hill had earlier starts in relief of a hurt Giovani Bernard, this game marked the first time he was officially declared the starter at the position.
This year's key storyline: This game's biggest storylines likely will change often up until the week of the teams' first meeting, but for now, keep an eye on what happens with new Browns receiver Terrelle Pryor. Cleveland claimed him off waivers Monday after the Bengals cut him last Thursday. For the past month, Pryor was playing quarterback for the Bengals. Just before news of his signing Monday, Pryor posted to social media since-deleted videos of himself throwing passes in Bengals minicamp practices. If Pryor still has access to Bengals practice tape, that could cause an extra headache when Cincinnati sets up game plans for the Browns this fall.