The other time it happened was in 1999, when both teams were 0-4. That contest saw the Bengals pull off a road win with an 18-17 decision. That game holds an infamous spot in B.O.O. lore as the Akili Smith throat slash game, in which the Bengals quarterback made the gesture after throwing a game-winning touchdown pass to Carl Pickens with five seconds remaining.
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A few weeks later, the NFL banned the throat slash as “an unacceptable act of violence.”
So consider Sunday’s game at FirstEnergy Stadium the rubber match of wretchedness.
Using history as a barometer, it could be one of the few highlights the winning team will experience the rest of the season.
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In 2008, the Browns went on to finish 4-12 while the Bengals went 4-11-1.
And in 1999, the Bengals wasted the spark of a last-second win by losing their next game six games to fall to 1-10 before finishing 4-12. Half of those four victories came against the Browns, who dropped their first seven on the way to a 2-14 campaign.
While that 1999 season pre-dated the Marvin Lewis era in Cincinnati, this weekend’s matchup has the feel of the coach’s career coming full circle.
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Lewis’ first season as head coach began 0-3 and was followed by a trip to Cleveland, a battle with Buffalo and a bye.
The new three weekends for the Bengals: at Cleveland, vs. Buffalo and a bye.
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Lewis’ 2003 team turned things around and finished 8-8 for the franchise’s first non-losing season in seven years and just the second in 13 seasons.
But it’s doubtful an 8-8 finish in 2017 will be as celebrated.
Cincinnati Bengals (0-3) vs. Cleveland Browns (0-3)
When: 1 p.m. Sunday
Where: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland
TV: Ch. WHIO-TV Ch. 7, Ch. 12
Radio: Bengals — 1530-AM, 102.7-FM, 104.7-FM: Browns — 1290-AM, News 95.7-FM WHIO