CLEVELAND - There's a subtle way that Browns coach Rob Chudzinski delivers the right message at the right time.
He's never going to be compared to New York Jets coach Rex Ryan, who is given to outlandish statements to draw attention to himself. Conversely, he's not as stoic as former Browns coach Pat Shurmur, who tried to conceal most of his thoughts behind a blank stare.
Chudzinski knows when to push the proper buttons to motivate the players. He did exactly that two weeks ago before a game against the Baltimore Ravens, saying it was time for the Browns to shed the image of being the kid brother of the AFC North Division.
That theme has caught hold in the locker room. Defensive tackle Phil Taylor referenced it earlier this week. Cornerback Joe Haden was asked about it prior to Wednesday's practice in preparation for Sunday's road game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The thought seems to be that to beat the best, you can't fall into the trap of thinking the other guy is better than you.
"If we start thinking over what it really is - a game - then that's when you start trying to do too much," Haden said. "If we go about it the same way we planned and that everybody does his job, then everything will work itself out.
"It's hard to do because this is a very big game for us, but at the same time that's the way we got to where we are now by just going game by game."
The Browns, who are a game and a half behind the first-place Bengals in the division, would obviously like to sneak up on the Bengals. That's unlikely, given that the Bengals have lost two straight and were a 17-6 loser to the Browns earlier this season.
"I told our players that the Browns have us circled," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis. "We better be ready."
Prior to the season, it's doubtful anyone in the Browns' hierarchy thought they would be in contention for the division title in week 10. In the parity-laced NFL, however, a 4-5 record can put a team in the playoff chase.
In the matter of two months, Chudzinski has gone from being the rookie coach of a rebuilding team to the rookie coach of a contender. No more kid brother talk for the Browns.
"I think the guys are focused about that and excited about that," said Chudzinski of the chase to catch the Bengals. "At the end of the day, all that matters is what you do on the field.
"The willingness is there. We have to have a good week of preparation and transfer it on the field. That's the bottom line."
Having a nine-year veteran at quarterback is invaluable for stretch runs. Jason Campbell has never appeared in a playoff game, but he has enough experience to bring a calming influence to the locker room.
"I think my experience helps me out in this situation," Campbell said. "It's been a while since I've been able to go down the stretch, but I'm excited about the opportunity. I think I'm WD40'd up now. I'll be ready to go."
The Browns would like nothing better than to return home from Cincinnati known as the big brother of the division.