IT’S CLEVELAND AND MIAMI!! RAWWRR!! Oh, wait, that was last night. Well, here we are at 4-7, coming off a “wow, how did they not lose that game?” performance in the second half last Sunday against the Panthers. I’ve almost run out of witty things to say about this Browns team, as the injuries seem to have sucked some of the starch out of their shirts. So, I’ma let Scott give you the set up. Tune in to WKNR during the 11 AM hour on Friday and let his dulcet tones sooth your “I hate Miami!” soul after last night’s re-ripping-open of the wound.
First and foremost, how angry does that Dolphin look? I mean, man. I thought Snowflake in Ace Ventura was a nice, happy dolphin. As Lenny in The Simpsons once said, they’re the clowns of the sea! I digress… It won’t do much, but the Browns—far and away now the Kings of Cleveland—have the chance to salvage a little municipal dignity against Miami, though they must go on the road to do it. The Dolphins are 6-5 also-rans in the tough AFC East, but don’t look much different than the Browns in many ways. Avg. points per game: CLE – 19.6, MIA – 18.6. Avg. points allowed per game: CLE – 20.8, MIA – 20.5. Miami holds a slight edge in all offensive and defensive stats except for rushing yards per game, where the Browns have the slight advantage. In the battle of dueling QB carousels, Miami goes to Chad Henne again, and the Browns continue with Back-Foot Delhomme. The Browns are 1-4 on the road, but the one other strange thing in the Browns favor? Miami is only 1-4 at home this year. Phew. Without further ado…
The Browns Will Win If…
Craig: …Jake Delhomme takes care of the ball on offense. I really like the Browns’ chances stopping the Dolphins offense. Chad Henne is playing again this week and he certainly has a decent amount of weapons from Ronnie Browns and Ricky Williams to Brandon Marshall. Still, the Browns’ defense should be up to the challenge. I am really only concerned about the Browns’ offense taking care of the ball and putting up enough points to give the team a chance to win.
Scott: …they figure out how to play on the road. Being one-four on the road and playing against a team with big play ability does not bode well for a team that is now trying to get off of a two game losing streak. Good news is that assuming Mangini and Daboll run the Wildcat in practice, the current Browns defense should be well aware of how to stop it. Also in their corner is the fact that Brandon Marshall may be hobbled by his hamstring injury, and linebacker Matt Roth is a former member of the Dolphins, and should be well aware how they scheme on the defensive side. Also Miami may be one of the only teams in the NFL with a quarterback situation in a bigger state of flux than Cleveland. The Browns will need to get back to playing smart football, limit the turnovers, and consider tackling. The game is completely winnable as long as the Browns don’t play down to the level of their opponent.
DP: …they don’t turn the ball over. Miami’s defense has been great against the run of late, including holding the Raiders’ solid running game to just 16 yards of rushing last week. The Browns’ bread and butter on offense is Peyton Hillis, and if the Dolphins slow him down or even take him away like Jacksonville did, it’s going to fall on the shoulders of Jake Delhomme. And that makes me want to vomit. If we can get the nice throws to the wide receivers that we got last week without the disgusting telegraphed pick-six passes, that would go a long way toward helping the Browns score some points. On defense, the Browns would catch a big break if Brandon Marshall doesn’t play or is slowed down by his hamstring. Or, if he continues to play like he doesn’t care. The Browns have looked like the injuries to guys like Wright and Fujita on defense have been hurting them more than we’d hoped the past two weeks, when they just couldn’t make stops when needed against average offenses. That trend will tell us early how things are going, I suspect. The Dolphins are averaging just 105 yards on the ground this year, but then again, the Panthers were averaging under 100, and went off for 151 last week. I guess for me, it comes down to this: STOP LOCKING ON TO YOUR RECEIVERS AND THROWING OFF YOUR BACK FOOT, JAKE!
Rick: …they can control the ball and clock. It’s no big secret this team isn’t good enough to overcome a turnover differential against quality teams. They must protect the ball without reverting to a 1970’s playbook. Defensively they have to do a better job at bringing down a ball carrier. Mangini stated over and over in his talks this week that they were addressing the tackling issue. I hope addressed equals fixed. I am excited to see the Joe Haden progress. Last week he covered Steve Smith one on one several times, and did a great job. With Eric Wright still out apparently, Haden will again get his shot to cover a big time WR. This week it’s Brandon Marshall. We shall see if those reports from last spring about Haden’s speed being sub-par (ha!) have any validity.
Andrew: …uh, if Matt Roth treats the Miami Dolphins in his return to Miami like LeBron James treated the Cleveland Cavaliers in his return to Cleveland? I mean, I’m not exactly sure how I’m supposed to establish a way the Browns win a game in which Jake Delhomme is the starting QB, but I guess I can try. The key for the Browns, of course, is to simply not let Jake Delhomme even try to be a factor in this game. Miami is 4th in the NFL in pass defense, so it would be foolish to even attempt to beat the Dolphins through the air. The Dolphins struggle much more with stopping the run, and it will be up to Brian Daboll to not fall into the same trap as last game of consistently calling play sequences which puts the Browns in obvious passing situations. Yes, you can be creative with the play calling, just don’t get cute with it. Utilize Peyton Hillis, call safe pass plays with are TE heavy, and try to win with a game Woody Hayes would be proud of. I hate being so down on Delhomme because I really like the guy, but I just don’t trust him anymore after last game.
TD: …Jake Delhomme doesn’t throw any bad interceptions and Peyton Hillis runs the ball like…well, um….Peyton Hillis, the Browns should have a decent day in Miami.
Now, for the other side of the coin. We reached out to the guys at PhinPhanatic, and senior writer Patrik Nohe came through with the knowledge. PhinPhanatic is one of the oldest blogs on FanSided, he’ll have you know. Without further ado…
The Dolphins Will Win If…
…they execute. That sounds entirely too simple but anyone who has watched these Dolphins play know that execution has been one of their biggest problems. So far on the season the defense has been inconsistent, the offense can’t score touchdowns and after entering the season with playoff expectations, the fans are about to have a meltdown. To say things haven’t gone according to plan is an understatement.
A lot has been made of the “poor” play-calling by offensive coordinator Dan Henning. While Henning certainly hasn’t turned in a good performance coaching this season, it’s naive to think that he alone has been responsible for the Dolphins’ problems. Last season Miami had the number four rushing attack in all of football. This season they haven’t had a player go over 100 yards. A lot of the components are still the same and though the play-calling breakdown favors the pass over the run, a huge part of the problem has been simple execution.
This team can’t get out of its own way, it commits too many penalties, mental errors and leaves far too many plays on the field to be successful as an offense. If you put them in a situation where they have to march the whole length of the field, they really haven’t demonstrated the ability to consistently string together enough plays to score a touchdown. They’ll stall out on a dropped pass, a sack, a fumbled snap or some kind of ridiculous penalty. If Miami wants to win against an underrated Browns squad they need simplify things, focus and execute. This isn’t a bad offense, it’s an offense that hasn’t clicked. Miami needs to cut out all of the sneaky, complicated stuff and focus on their strengths. Run the ball between the tackles, throw off the play-fake and take advantage of the mismatches that present themselves. In short, don’t out-think yourselves, just go out and beat the man in front of you.
Defensively Miami needs to cue on Peyton Hillis and the run game and force Cleveland to throw in order to beat them. A lot of that is going to come down to maintaining responsibilities, not playing out of position but more importantly, tackling. The Dolphins tend to ebb and flow as a tackling team. Some weeks the defense looks focused and they have no problem with their tackling, other days it’s like watching the JV team try to tackle varsity. Miami needs to play to their responsibilities and make sure to wrap up, a ball-carrier like Hillis thrives running through arm tackles and bad attempts. As long as they play smart and execute they should be fine.
What say, there, fuzzy britches?