CLEVELAND — It has long been said that adversity reveals character, and be it penalties, injuries, lineup changes or an indefinite suspension for Pro Bowl pass rusher Myles Garrett, challenges are something the Cleveland Browns have dealt with throughout the 2019 regular season.
But through all of the adversity, coach Freddie Kitchens is confident his team is ready to renew its AFC North Division rivalry with the Cincinnati Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland today.
“I think our character will be demonstrated on how we go out and play,” Kitchens said following Friday’s practice. “I know we prepared well during the course of the week. Now, we have to take it to Sunday. I have confidence that these guys will do that.”
The Browns’ playoff hopes took a huge hit with last Sunday’s 20-13 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, but while the opportunity to win the AFC North Division is off the table, the team remains mathematically alive in the postseason race.
With only four games remaining in the 2019 regular season, the Browns know they can ill-afford another misstep and enter this week’s matchup with the Bengals well aware of what is at stake.
“We strictly talk about going 1-0 this week,” Kitchens said. “We just want to go 1-0 this week. I know that if we do not do our job this week, none of that conversation exists. They may say what you want to hear, but at the end of the day, we are talking about being 1-0 this week and letting all that stuff take care of itself.
“We do not care about the percentages. We just want to be 100 percent this week on how we prepare.”
The Browns looked poised to complete their first regular-season sweep of the Steelers since doing so three straight times from 1986-1988, but as has been the case often since their return to the National Football League in 1999, they will have to wait until next year to break the streak.
Despite jumping out to a 10-point lead in the second quarter and playing against fourth-string quarterback Devlin “Duck” Hodges and an undermanned Steelers team, the Browns allowed 20 straight points and never recovered on the way to the seven-point loss.
With the latest road loss to the Steelers, the Browns fell to 5-7 on the season, but they had no time to feel sorry for themselves.
The Browns had to regroup quickly and prepare to face a Bengals team that beat the New York Jets for their first victory of the season last Sunday. Following the game against the Bengals, the Browns will go on the road in two of the final three weeks, first at Arizona on December 15, and then, at Cincinnati on December 29.
Those road trips bookend the home finale against the AFC North Division frontrunners, the Baltimore Ravens, who have had more than two months to stew on the 15-point loss the Browns handed them in Baltimore in Week 4.
“Wednesday, I got the same thing I have gotten with these guys continually,” Kitchens said. “We put that behind us.
“We always try to move forward to the next week, and I think these guys have done an excellent job of that. That is the only thing we are concerned about. We are not worried about anything in the past or the future -- just this Sunday.”