August 16, 2014

Week 7: The Browns Will Win If…

It’s almost starting to feel like game days are the respite from the craziness that is swirling around the Browns these days. Between the offense and the Peyton Hillis contract and the general malaise of Browns fans, it’s been an interesting couple of weeks. Well, Game Day is Game Day, so here’s hoping the Browns can tune out some of the distractions. The Seattle Seahawks come to town,

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The  Browns might be catching a bit of a break, as the Seahawks’ offense is actually worse on paper than is Cleveland’s and Tavaris Jackson may not play with a pec injury (hellooooo, Charlie Whitehurst!). However, the reigning NFC West [gulp] Champs are coming in off of their bye week. They’ve been averaging just 288 yards per game on offense, good for 30th in the league. They only average 83 yards per game on the ground, which should help the Browns defense a little. End of the day, the teams are 26th and 27th in the league in points per game, with Seattle at 18.8 and Cleveland at 18.2. This could be a snoozefest. The Browns have the edge on the stat-sheet defensively, giving up 45 fewer yards per game, and roughly one point less per game (23.4 to 24.4). So, where rubber meets road on the scoreboard, these two clubs appear to be pretty evenly matched. Feel the excitement! Without further ado…

The Browns Will Win If…

Editor’s note: Similar to the pats weeks, we have started things off with sharing some takes with our audience over at Still WFNY – please feel free to head over to Cleveland.com to partake. We have also invited Daniel Wolf from National Football Authority to contribute to our weekly post. If you haven’t already, check out his website and twitter for Browns news and info. Take it away, Daniel…

Daniel Wolf : …they can start off strong and fast on offense, for once this season. Earlier this week, head coach Pat Shurmur has eluded to starting off the Seattle game with the no-huddle offense. Colt McCoy has shown he can be very effective in the no-huddle, both during his rookie season last year and in the game winning drive agains the Dolphins this season. Maybe the no-huddle in the West Coast offense is the answer right now. A different approach is needed and if the Browns need to become a no-huddle team all game long, moving forward, then might as well test it out against the Seahawks before the schedule gets tougher and tougher as the season progresses.

Scott: …can achieve a semblance of “closer’s mentality,” forget the past and only focus on the task at hand.  Sure they may have blown a few opportunities, sputtered out of the gate and allowed several big plays while not compensating on the other end.  But if they can go into this week drama free with a balanced offensive approach, taking advantage of their opportunities – whether in the form of turning targets into receptions or rushing attempts in to short-yardage situtions – Monday in Cleveland will be like the Wizard of Oz post tornado.  Sunday is supposed to be 61 degrees and sunny, the perfect forecast for a mid-autumn football game. This doesn’t mean that Shumur has to air it out 61 times.  Regardless of the score at any point before the fourth quarter, a run-game is imperative regardless of who is carrying the ball.  The defensive line should be able to reach whichever quarterback Pete Carroll trots out there; this should certainly help the battered secondary.  With the linebackers tasked with ensureing Marshawn Lynch doesn’t go Nova, this will be Shurmur’s telltale game as a rookie head coach.  If they (they!?) can’t capitalize on an early home game against an opponent traveling across the country, who knows when they will.

DP: …they run the ball. I’m going to keep saying it over and over until Pat Shurmur does it. We’re getting to the time of year where the weather starts to factor into the passing game (it does tend to get windy right by giant bodies of water from time to time in the fall; just ask Chicagoans this week), and if I have to keep typing it until I’m blue in the fingers I’m going to keep imploring Shurmur to run the ball. I know they’re playing some kind of weird hard ball with Peyton Hillis, but whatever. Be a grown up. Assuming they don’t choose to run the ball, they’re going to have to play some stout defense and frustrate a Seahawks offense that frankly isn’t any better than ours. They don’t run the ball well, either, and that should help the Browns. They may be going with their backup QB in Charlie Whitehurst, but he’s had two weeks to prepare with the team on a bye week. If Joe Haden doesn’t go, it will be imperative for the Browns to get some rush on Whitehurst, especially since he’s far less dangerous on his feet than is Tavaris Jackson. Honestly, at this point, I’d settle for a coherent and cohesive offensive game plan. You know, something that looks like they practiced it. That might even be enough to outscore this Seahawks team.

Andrew: …if the offense can figure out this whole “sustained drives” thing. I’m starting to sound like a broken record again, but it’s downright embarrassing watching this team try to put together drives. One first down feels like a miracle itself, but putting together 2 first downs on one drive? Unheard of! The Browns rank 31st out of 32 teams in yards per play. They rank 24th in yards per drive and 25th in points per drive. So how should they go about sustaining better drives? Being less predictable in run/pass distribution might be a good start. Leaning more on the run game would probably be a good idea. Use the plays that the team has had the most success with on 1st downs would be a nice change. It may be cliche, but getting into manageable 3rd downs is a great way to improve on offense. To do so, you have to have success on 1st down. The Browns right now seem to have two first down plays: Incomplete pass and run for 2 yards. That’s not going to cut it. If the Browns can establish more of an identity on offense and string together some first downs to create some of those magical things called “scoring drives”, they might actually win this game.

Rick: …the players are able to focus on the Seahawks and maybe even get a little mad about their last performance. Will the offense start in neutral again this week? Can the defense overcome the loss of Fujita and likely Haden again? Those will be big indicators of whether or not the team is successful. The crowd won’t be very supportive I’m guessing if they try to play from behind again. Establish the running game and get the Tight Ends involved early. Continue to take shots down-field with Greg Little even if they aren’t successful but 25% of the time, it will help open up the middle of the field for Watson, Smith and Moore. Josh Cribbs needs to back up his talk from earlier this week and produce on special teams when given the chance. And who knows what we will see from Hillis. Frankly, I don’t care who’s running the ball as long as they are effective. I would like to see fewer passes to stone hands Hardesty though.

TD: …they hold their own against substandard QBs. The Seahawks looked as bad as the Browns have looked this season, yet they inexplicably went into New York two weeks ago and knocked off the red hot Giants. They did it with backup QB Charlie Whitehurst leading the comeback. We still don’t know who is going to start at QB for Seattle – Pete Carroll is keeping that quiet until he has to – but it doesn’t really matter. Neither Whitehurst nor Tavaris Jackson will make anyone think of Tom Brady. Its simple for the Browns – they have to make sure they don’t get beaten by one of these two below average QB’s with the pass. Their running game is suspect at best with Marshawn Lynch. Offensively, I dont even know what to say at this point. Maybe Montario Hardesty will have a big game, maybe the line will give more time for Colt McCoy to hit some passes down the middle to the Tight Ends. Whatever the case, this is another one of those “you’d better not lose at home to this team” type of games.

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Now, for the other side of the coin. We reached out to several Seahawks bloggers, and got some strong takes. Without further ado…

The Seahawks Will Win If…

Matthew Huett lives in Western Oregon these days, but grew up in Eastern Washington (’round about where all those Washington apples are grown) and spent his formative years watching plenty of Krieg-to-Largent. He joined Seahawk Addicts a few years back strictly as an editor and occasional writer, and earlier this year he took over the blog when the previous owner decided to call it quits. The focus of the site is twofold: publish quality opinion and analysis pieces, and create an atmosphere where fans can relax and have fun talking about Seahawks football.

…their no-huddle offense picks up where it left off before the bye week. Tarvaris Jackson’s ability to run the no-huddle has been impressive, so much so that Seattle fans are worried that he might not play, which is a complete 180 from the prevailing opinion of Jackson’s value earlier in the season. That said, there isn’t much of a drop-off in talent if his backup Charlie Whitehurst gets the start instead, and the supporting cast around the QB (a swiftly improving o-line, a great stable of running backs, and a receiving corps bolstered by free agent addition Sidney Rice and rookie standout Doug Baldwin) will be the same either way, so the Seahawks have a good chance at continuing their newfound offensive competency.

On defense, the Seahawks will win if they can figure out how to put pressure on the quarterback. They’re already one of the best run defenses in the league, but so far this year DE Chris Clemons is the only player consistently getting anywhere near the opposing QB. New 3-tech DT Alan Branch has shown flashes of disruptive potential, and on obvious passing downs DE Raheem Brock has been subbing in opposite Clemons to bolster the pass rush. The secondary is promising (especially the young safety tandem of ball-hawk Earl Thomas and big hitter Kam Chancellor) but it’s still a work in progress, and the only player in the unit with significant NFL experience, CB Marcus Trufant, was just recently placed on injured reserve, so they’re going to need all the help they can get from the front seven.

Danny Kelly is the Managing Editor & Lead Writer at Field Gulls, the SBNation Seahawks blog.

…they can successfully run the ball. The Hawks have yet to effectively run the ball with any consistency this season but the Browns’ weakness in run defense could present an opportunity for the Seahawks to finally gain some traction. A good run game is paramount to Pete Carroll’s offensive philosophy and having a balance of running and passing has been quite elusive in the early part of his rebuild in Seattle.

In prior games the Seahawks have tried to establish the run by first passing early – this worked against the Giants but against the Browns stiff pass defense they may need to go the opposite route – running hard and effectively to open up the passing lanes. If they can get their trio of Marshawn Lynch, Leon Washington, and Justin Forsett rolling, they could control the tempo, win the time of possession battle, and keep their defense off the field.

Running the ball successfully on the road will help the Seahawks grind away and keep the Browns fans out of the game. If they can manage to string together some first downs with an effective run game, the road ‘dog Seahawks will have a chance to sneak away with a win. If they are unable to run on the pass-stingy Browns defense, it could be a long day.

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What say, there, fuzzy britches?

  • C-Bus Kevin

    …they want anyone to pay attention to them by mid November.

  • TSR3000

    …they actually throw the ball past the first down marker. Romeo & Company had their faults but at least they were fun to watch. Mangigni’s crew, too. This new system is horrible. At least our defense shows signs of hope.

  • C-Bus Kevin

    Seriously…this game will secure the browns status. Either they are one of the worst in the league with a loss, or they are somewhere in the middle. I’ll take the middle please.

  • Mark

    @C-Bus Kevin – I’m not sure a win or a loss tells us much unless it’s a blow out either way. Seattle isn’t very good. Neither are we. Either outcome doesn’t change that. Obviously I’d rather the Browns win but a sloppy win doesn’t mean we are better than we were before.

    What if Colt is 21-30 for 300+ and 3tds, Hardesty runs for 100 and Little grabs 8 for 100 and a td but the D stinks it up and we lose? How would you feel then? Will we look at it as, “well the offense improved but the D had a uncharacteristically bad game”? Wouldn’t we look at that as an improvement? I ask this without knowing what even my answer will be.

  • mgbode

    I’m not so sure beating the Seahawks at home w/ their backup QB puts us in the middle. Unless you are talking middle 20s :)

    Anyways, nothing too great, but here is how we beat the Seahawks

    1. Use the WCO running game. If we are going to pass short to setup the run, then let’s do it. Let’s commit to it early so we can sneak in some good runs later. Seattle is much better against the run vs. the pass anyway, so it should be right in Shurmurs wheelhouse.

    2. Mix in a couple deep passes early. I’m not even saying do it all game. But, have Colt throw deep (Cribbs and *sigh* Robiskie are our best guys fighting for a deeper ball, so use them) even if he does it as a decoy. Heck, it might catch Seattle so off-guard that it could work.

    3. Don’t fear the TE. I want to see as many 2TE and 3TE sets as we have in our playbook as the game goes on. Make them think we might run, and pass. Then, sneak in the runs from the same formations. We have 3 TEs who can catch, so we might as well take advantage. If this is our strength (as it has seemed to be) then commit to it.

    4. Be aggressive in the red zone. If we get into the red zone, then go for the TD. Get in Little’s grill and challenge him (he seems like the type of guy that you can get uber-exicited) and let’s get some TDs.

    5. Looks like Haden will play, which is good. So, let’s make Charlie Whitehurst look like well Charlie Whitehurst. Mike Williams (should be back), Doug Baldwin and Sidney Rice have talent but we should be able to contain them. Our DBs need to be physical against this WR set and if Sheldon Brown isn’t getting the job done, then he needs to be removed.

    6. Maiava may need to replace Fujita(concussion), so it could hurt our rush defense (while helping our pass D). Make sure that he (and the rest of the D – looking at you Usama) know that you have to wrap and gang-tackle Marshawn Lynch. He’s not the fastest RB by a long stretch, but he does keep those legs driving. We need to wrap-up this week (whereas the last couple of RBs we have faced have had more speed than power).

    7. Unger and Zach Miller are still out, but Gallery is back. If Unger misses the game, that should help Rubin, but I’d like to see us match him up on Gallery if we can (Taylor may have more issues with him). I want to see us get the push from the middle of the DL (we did more early in the year than the last couple of weeks).

    8. No more stupid brain farts. KR TDs, FG fakes, Defense not lined up. I mean we need to play the entire time and make sure everyone is always paying attention. We cannot afford these momentum killers Sunday.

  • Harrison

    Side Note: Marty Schottenheimer is coaching the Virginia Destroyers against the Las Vegas Locomotives in the UFL Championship game tonight. Coach finally might win it all.

  • OhioMike

    I just want to see a better offensive line..pushing the defense to creates holes for a running game and……protecting our QB long enough to find the open WR or TE and make some passing yards!!! Thats what its all about. Moveing the ball forward more than 2-3 yards per down!!! Just for the record…I predict Hillis to be a One year wonder!!!! Last year!!! I hope im wrong!!!!