I thought about changing the title of this column to something snarky like “The Browns Can’t Win Because…”, but that would be a great disservice to you, our faithful readers. You’ve come to expect professionalism, and professionalism you shall get!
The Browns’ season is over relative to the playoffs, and even more than that there is some activity on the lifeboats-deck of the U.S.S. Romeo. But, the Bills are currently wallowing in a 3-game losing streak with some QB questions of their own (Dick Jauron says Edwards is his guy). Will the Browns’ extra-long prep time mean another sighting of the team that dismantled the Giants after the bye-week? Can we hope to not see the prevent defense in the third freaking quarter?? Without further ado…
The Browns Will Win If…
Craig: …They bring back the UFO defense. Kevin Johnson will need to re-sign with the team to run the wildcat offense. Butch Davis will have to spontaneously combust wherever he is in the world. Bill Belichick will have to secretly telephone defensive schemes into Romeo Crennel’s headset. Matt Bahr and his single bar facemask will have to kick 3 field goals in the brisk Buffalo weather. Bernie Kosar’s beautiful curly mullet will have to stick out from underneath every player’s helmet on the field this week. The ghost of Nev Chandler will have to call the game on a cosmic wavelength that only true Browns fans will be able to hear. In other words, I have no idea what it takes for the Browns to win and neither does anyone else. More seriously, just play some defense in the second half, please.
Scott: …if the defense shows up, for an entire game. Buffalo is looking for a win just as much as we are, and you can bet that Cleveland-native Lee Evans is licking his chops after last week’s Browns game. Whether the team sticks with McDonald or opts for Travis Daniels, there better be some safety help over the top as Evans loves the deep route. The trick here is that Buffalo actually has a run game, opposed to that of Denver. Marshawn Lynch could give us fits, and if he averages five or six yards a carry, it will be a long day. (DE-FENCE!)
DP: …they actually try to win. The past two games, they have played “not to lose” in the last 20-25 minutes, and have consequentially lost each game. They’ve abandoned whatever they were doing on defense that was [gasp] working and gone to a prevent, which has done nothing but make Joe Flacco and Jay Cutler look like Elway and Marino. Brady Quinn will have had 10 days as the starter to improve on what was really a fairly solid performance last Thursday, and the Bills defense is fairly middle of the road (14th vs. the run, 16th vs. the pass). So, there should be opportunities there for the offense to find a groove. Let’s hope Romeo and Chud don’t abandon what works (guys, Jerome Harrison IS capable of handling more than four touches a game!). The biggest challenge for the Browns will be to make sure that Buffalo’s 24th ranked offense (28th rush, 13th pass) doesn’t burn them. If they have another week of letting a mediocre quarterback torch them, it’s going to be a long night on Monday. Most importantly, they need to play for 60 minutes. It really is that simple.
Rick: …they follow the same script as last year’s win. They may not have control over the weather aspect, but they need to shut down the Bills’ running game like they did last year. Two players that had huge games last year were Andra Davis (mostly because everyone ran the same speed in that blizzard) and Joe Jurevicius, who had the play of the game when he caught a ball that slipped through Braylon’s hands. (Shocking, I know.) Vince G. has an excellent piece about Joe this week in CleveScene Magazine by the way. Obviously Joe is out for Monday, and the odds of Andra repeating that performance are slim. We will need others to step up. Jamal Lewis, you called out your teammates. This would be a great week to lead by example. Alex Hall, nobody else is going to pressure the QB from the edge. We need you to give 150% when you are in there. Joe Thomas, step up and be a leader. Forget the fishing show for a week and get the attention of the line.
Now, for the other side of the coin. I’ve always felt a kinship with our friends up in Buffalo, for a couple of reasons: our teams share a history of “almost” winning the big games, we had a baseball pipeline between Buffalo and Cleveland for many years, and of course who could forget that the Bills so graciously had “Cleveland Browns Fan Appreciation Day” shortly after Modell took our team away. And so, in spite of the fact that for my own amusement I (unsuccessfully) scoured the Internet for a picture of Clay Matthews intercepting Jim Kelly’s pass in the 1/6/90 playoff game, it’s always fun to check in with some of our brother-men: Buffalo fans.
We reached out to the gang at Buffalo Rumblings, which is an online community of Buffalo Bills fans that exists to keep each member sane. Utilizing the tools provided by the blog’s parent network, SB Nation, this group of Bills fans does what many journalists fail to do: talk intelligently about the Bills. Or talk about the Bills at all, for that matter. Brian Galliford is the blog’s Executive Editor, and Jason Fritz (alias “Kurupt”) is one of his main co-horts.
We also contacted the venerable Matt Loede, who contributed for the Browns/Ravens game a couple of weeks ago and who also is the editor of Bills Gab as well.
Without further ado…
The Bills Will Win If…
Brian Galliford, Buffalo Rumblings
…they don’t lose. Obvious, right? Not to Buffalo; during the team’s current three-game losing streak, the Bills have become increasingly proficient at doing their opponents’ job for them. In those three losses – which, irritatingly, came to each of Buffalo’s AFC East foes – the Bills accumulated 9 turnovers (8 directly attributed to QB Trent Edwards) and 17 penalties. You’re not going to win very often if you do that. Couple the gaffes with an alarming predictability in offensive play-calling, and you get the crap football we’ve endured for about a month now. Did you know that, merely based on formation, we’ve been able to guess whether the Bills run or pass correctly 91% of the time? Yeah. It’s that bad. Place a few of these types of bets when the Bills have the ball, Browns fans, and you might win yourself a few bucks.
I’m what the critics like to call a “homer” through and through, and I still believe that when they aren’t playing like they’re in a Pop Warner league, the Bills can compete with any team in this league – and beat them. There’s a reason we got off to a 5-1 start. Well, there are two, actually; one of them was our cupcake schedule. The other is that this is a good team. As long as Buffalo eliminates the mundane lack of creativity and the miscues offensively, their defense and special teams have been performing well enough to win. Don’t beat yourselves and you win. Sounds simple enough, right? Nothing is ever simple when you’re a fan of the Buffalo Bills.
Jason Fritz, Buffalo Rumblings
…they feed off what expects to be a loud, boisterous and more than likely, belligerent crowd. The past three games the team has played listless, passive, mistake filled football. Many of us over at Rumblings believe the team takes on the personality of head coach Dick Jauron, which is conservative, passive, and a bit timid even. The team simply hasn’t forced the action during this losing streak letting the opponent control the ball, the clock and the tempo of the game. For the Bills to come out on top Monday night, they will need to come out aggressive, hungry and show the toughness that those in the crowd demand from a Buffalo team. Last year against Dallas on MNF, the team really fed off the crowd early and often, but unfortunately they couldn’t hold on in the end. It’s a big game for the team AND the crowd.
Beyond that, the Bills need to run a more diverse and less predictable offense, as Brian mentions above. We’ve grown accustomed to them passing on 3rd and short from the shotgun and running on 1st down from under center, and I’m sure every opponent sees the exact same thing. This offense is too predictable and it’s hurting production and showing on the scoreboard. This week, Marshawn Lynch really needs to be the main guy. His carries and touches have really been slipping the past month or so, and in turn, so has the offense. It’s no secret that Lynch gets better with more touches, so it’s time for the team to get back to that. The Browns run D is suspect at best, as you guys know, but the Bills OL has struggled opening holes all year. The OL has to win this week.
On defense, the Bills will need to slow Jamal Lewis and make Brady Quinn uncomfortable. Lewis killed us last year, so he should be the major key for our defense. The Bills have been pretty good against the run this year, but tend to get hurt by power running games. Lewis is the type of guy who can grind out yard after yard against the Bills D, so they’ll need to shut that down. Quinn, making his first road start, will have to overcome the booming crowd and hopefully a fired up defense. The D will need to get after Quinn, which has been a major problem for this team for years, and force him to make mistakes. I watched the Browns/Broncos last week and noticed there were very few passes more than 10 yards downfield. Lucky for you guys, the Bills love to allow the underneath stuff, so for them to slow Quinn and the passing attack, they will need to get to him quickly and also get up on the receivers. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be part of their gameplan….ever.
SirEric, Buffalo Rumblings
…Thier offensive line shows up to play. The Bills need to control the line of scrimage offensivly, whether that is running the ball with Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch, screens, wide receiver screens, or even reverses. This will not only obviously have a positive effect on the Bills offense, but will help keep the Browns offense, or most specifically Jamal Lewis off the field. The Bills struggle against power runners, guys who can wear down a defense and seem to get stronger as the game goes on. The Bills will have to limit how much Lewis is on the field, and they do that with thier offense. Brad Butler, the Bills starting RG returns from injury in this game, so that will help. Going up against Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams will not.
Matt Loede, Bills Gab
…they get back to basics. The last few weeks the team has gotten away from what made them successful the first seven weeks of the season, which is to avoid turnovers and mistakes. The team got beat up in Miami by a physical Dolphins defense, then made way too many mistakes at home to the Jets, and then followed it up with a combo of the two vs the Pats. They need to get back to sound football, which includes good play from the top, and of course that means Trent Edwards.
The last three losses are not all Edwards’ fault, but he has not been the same QB since the concussion in Arizona. He’s been just a little off, and also has made poor decisions. The weather is not going to be easy to throw on Monday night, but when he does throw, Edwards needs to make sure the ball gets to playmakers like Lee Evans and others.
As far as defense goes, they need to be good in their tackling, which has been another sore spot the past few weeks. Make sure you wrap up Jamal Lewis, and when you get a chance to get in on Brady Quinn, make the plays and pressure him. Marcus Stroud has been a playmaker on the D-line, and he needs to be that again Monday night.
The Bills have a very good special teams, with Roscoe Parrish leading the way, and getting a play or two from this department isn’t a bad thing. If they can get a few plays from this area, and again hold Josh Cribbs in check, they will be that much closer to getting back on the winning track.
What does everyone else think?