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Browns-Bengals matchup of the day: Friday

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Posted Nov. 22, 2011 @ 11:52 a.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

Here's a matchup to watch in Sunday's Browns-Bengals game: 

Browns RS Joshua Cribbs vs. Bengals coverage units 

Cribbs gave the Bengals fits in the first meeting. A 51-yard kickoff return in the second quarter set up the Browns' first touchdown. Then, in the fourth quarter, the Bengals averted disaster when Browns WR Greg Little's momentum after a thunderous block of Cincinnati P Kevin Huber carried him into Cribbs. While Cribbs gained 21 yards on the punt return in question, the potential for a longer gain, and perhaps even a score, was ended because of the unfortunate outcome of the block. 

Those returns are the longest the Bengals have surrendered this season. Against returners other than Cribbs, the Bengals are allowing just 6.1 yards on punts and 24.3 yards on kickoffs. Cincinnati has not allowed a return score in 2011. 

Cribbs returned six of eight Bengals punts in the first meeting, with one touchback and one punt downed without a return. He returned three kickoffs, with three touchbacks. Will he see as many as return chances this time? Note that only 25 of Huber's 62 punts have been returned, with 16 fair catches and seven touchbacks. Bengals PK Mike Nugent has forced 28 touchbacks out of 51 kickoffs.

Possessing rare return skills, Cribbs is the Browns' top playmaker in the open field. However, he doesn't have a return score in nearly two years. Nevertheless, he's had a better season in 2011 than he did a year ago, when injuries hampered him and opponents did an excellent job holding him in check. He is very capable of breaking his return-TD drought at this season. 

The Bengals, certainly, are well-aware of how skilled he is. 

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