July 22, 2014

Week 8: The Browns Will Win If…

The Browns are 3-3. How is that possible? After a game against Seattle that set offensive football (and I do mean offensive! [rim shot]) back 40 years, the Browns will find their task much tougher this week as they travel to the left coast to play the red hot 49ers. Maybe Jim Harbaugh will cause Pat Shurmur to finally snap and go Jim Schwartz stark raving mad afterward.

browns49ers

The Browns’ offense has become a liability. The Browns’ special teams have become a liability. Awesome, because the 49ers are second-best in the league on defense in terms of points-allowed per game, and have one of the best ST coordinators (Brad Seely, remember him?) in the game. The 49ers’ offense actually is worse than the Browns’ in terms of yards per game, but they are strong running the ball (131.5 yards per game, which is 6th in the NFL). The Browns’ defense is coming off of a great performance in shutting down the Seahawks dreadful attack. It will not be so easy this week.

Oh, and that guy Braylon Edwards… remember him? He’s on this 49ers team. 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 : …if they can go into the no-huddle offense and get the blood pumping a bit. The offense is slow as molasses in the first quarter and—as I said in last week’s “The Browns Will Win If…” column—head coach Pat Shurmur needs to cater to quarterback Colt McCoy’s strengths. This means let him run the no-huddle early and often against a surprise 49ers team that is tough all-around. McCoy has shown he can be very comfortable in the no-huddle, both in 2010 and at times this season. Like how McCoy was in the no-huddle in the game winning drive at the end against the Dolphins. Not’s not rocket science here Shurmur, and I think you are over-thinking things too much right now. Sit back, relax a bit and let McCoy run a quicker paced offense and see if that works out better than how the offense has performed in the past few weeks.

Craig: …they get their special teams in order.  I know it is a quick turnaround to expect results, but it isn’t like these guys shouldn’t know how to play special teams anyway.  It takes focus, effort and a bit of strategy.  It will take all of that this week as the Browns attempt to keep Ted Ginn from killing them and hopefully give Phil Dawson a chance to help them put points on the board.  The Browns defense might be capable of keeping the Browns close enough to win again, so to me it comes down to special teams not putting the team behind the 8-ball.  Obviously I could talk about the offense, but I don’t see much point anymore as we know what they need to do.  I’ll pin this one on special teams this week.

DP: …they can stop Frank Gore, and stop the bleeding on Special Teams. The Browns’ defensive weakness to this point has been against the run, and that’s clearly the strength of the 49ers’ offense. Cleveland’s offense is going to struggle, but if they can slow down Gore and make the 49ers beat them with Alex Smith, I give them a puncher’s chance. I also don’t know who’s going to cover Vernon Davis, and that frightens me a bit.

Andrew: …they can shut out the 49ers. I continue to feel like the resident pessimist, but I don’t feel good about the Browns’ chances in this game. On paper the Browns defense looks stout, but they’ve played against Andy Dalton/Bruce Gradkowski, Kerry Collins, Chad Henne, Matt Hasselbeck, Jason Campbell/Kyle Boller, and Charlie Whitehurst. Their rush defense has not been very good, and the 49ers have been running over teams on the ground. On the other side of the ball, my confidence in the offense has never been lower. It’s astounding how similar the Browns’ offensive stats are in wins vs losses. Evidently they are just consistently bad. This tells me, though, that the outcome of these games have had far more to do with what the opponent has done vs what the Browns have done. It is worth noting, though, that (not surprisingly) the Browns do run the ball more in the games they win. Once again, Pat Shurmur needs to keep this offense focused on running the ball as much as possible.

Rick: …establish some kind of offensive identity. The Browns desperately need to get one phase of the offense going, whether it’s the running game or the passing attack. If they are going to focus on the pass, they better be able to stretch the field somehow. They have taken a couple shots downfield lately with Greg Little, and I think they need to try more often. We also keep hearing this week that Carlton Mitchell is finally going to play. Perhaps a few jump balls his way as well. At the very least they can try to use Moore down the middle of the field. For any of that to happen though the protection is going to have to be there. I’m looking at you right side of the line. By the way, you know who had a terrible game blocking last week? Ben Watson. Ugh. Defensively, the Browns need to do stay the course. I’d love to see the outside backers step up a bit, but the front 4 are doing a tremendous job.

Kirk: …they play smart, get off to a good start, and get pretty lucky on the road. Offensively, with the status of Hillis, Watson, and Massaquoi undetermined, Colt McCoy’s comfort zone could be at a season low. He’ll need to find an unconventional life preserver in the form of Evan Moore, Chris Ogbonnaya, or maybe even Carlton Mitchell. Hardesty wore down the Seahawks over 33 carries last week, but against the 2nd ranked run defense, he’ll have to do more than that. Montario must break two or three 10+ yard runs off. How about a strong performance out of the offensive line for once? Joe Thomas and Alex Mack need to rise to the occasion and lift up the young guards and Pashos like the Pro Bowlers they are. On the defensive side of the ball, the Browns need to make Alex Smith turn the ball over. If the Browns do win, I foresee it being because they won the turnover battle by 2 or more. The Vernon Davis/Browns’ safeties matchup will be a tough one. Finally, the special teams have been an embarrassment the past two weeks, so a quiet day in that facet of the game would be helpful.

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What say, there, fuzzy britches?

  • B-bo

    Sadly, I think this team could come out and play its best, most complete game of the season, and I still don’t think we’re covering the spread. It’s abundantly clear by this point of the season (if it wasn’t from the start) that we simply do not have true NFL-caliber talent on offense, outside of a couple linemen, two TEs (one hurt, one ignored, and a RB who may not be healthy before Thanksgiving. I love Josh Cribbs, but he is right to want to focus on special teams. A deficit of more than 10 is not something this offense can overcome, and the Niners could have 10 on the board before the end of the first quarter. I like our defense for the most part, but the other guys are bringing too many weapons.

    I think Gore has a big day, Davis lights it up, and we lose somewhere in the 31-6 range. And a TD return for Ginn should be expected. At least we’ll have a fighting chance with the Rams and Jags in a couple weeks.

  • Max

    the Browns will win if they don’t have a bunch of dumb penalties, do’t give up a free touchdown (or two) on a special teams gaffe or defensive meltdown (cough *Cincinnati* cough)(coughcough *80 yard touchdown to a tight end* coughcough) and the coaches get the play in to the huddle in time enough to avoid having to waste timeouts needlessly and stymie what little momentum the offense is able to create

    if they can stay out of their own way, they are then going to need to focus on holding Frank Gore in check, and not letting Vernon Davis kill them over the middle all day. They have to make it a game where Alex Smith is the one who has to make plays for the Niners to win. And if the Niners get out to a 10 plus point lead, then that’s all she wrote, I’m afraid. Their defense is playing too well this year (how awesome would it be to kidnap Patrick Willis and keep him for ourselves?) for us to get down double digits and even think we have a remote chance of coming back.

  • -bobby-

    Really B-bo? I dont know about anyone else but I expect to win. The 9ers really are not that good. Alex Smith has gone over 200 twice in 6 games (201 against Cincy, 291 vs Philly). It comes down to making him beat you. If he does then kudos. Shut down Gore, and make Smith throw. If we are in it in the 4th Ill believe for now Colt will found a way to make it happen. Its a big game for him. Beat the blitz, play solid D, and bring Cleveland a W.

  • -bobby-

    No INTs either. A fumble could happen, but if we throw more bad INTs (like vs the Titans or Seahawks) its over. No INTs, solid D, a hopefully the O finds the endzone.

  • C-Bus Kevin

    I don’t want to say they NEED it, but a defensive or special teams touchdown might be necessary.

  • oribiasi

    @ -bobby-: Just a side note, McCoy has gone over 200 yards five out of the six games we have played, but let’s be realistic, a good chunk of those yards are during garbage time during the Tennessee game particularly.

    We can win this game, absolutely; but we need to have NO mistakes or missed lanes on kickoff/punt returns, no other weird issues (interception returned for a TD), etc. If we keep McCoy upright and get Hillis, God willing, 25-30 touches, this should be a victory. Run right at their stud LB and make him play hard nosed football. Don’t let him into the backfield thinking is a pass play all the time.

    AND SCORE SOME DAMNED POINTS. We will NOT win this game with 2 G.D. fieldgoals.

  • Harv 21

    Need to commit to the run again to win this game with no receivers, and then hope for effective play action later.

    Unlike Daniel Wolf, don’t want them to play to Colt’s strengths, want them to make him to mostly be running a huddle, mostly stay in the pocket when he’s throwing, to read the defense and develop his skills. Not already default into Doug Flutie or a QB who needs gimmicks, just to win this game. Let him try and develop other game skills this year.

    And disagree with Andrew, just b/c he used the word “stout.” Thought we agreed that was to be packed and shipped with Mangini’s desk contents.

  • Dee P

    We will win if…the 49ers come out foggy from their bye week, the Browns jump on them early, and then use the D to hang on for dear life in the second half as the 49ers wake up and make a run at it late.

  • RyInCBus

    Frankly, we’ll need to play a perfect game and even have a bit of luck on our side to win this game. Instead of a win, I’m really just looking for improvement from our offense and our Special Teams at this point. I hate feeling like this on a Friday but I guess I’d rather be pleasantly surprised if they come out and play well than feel like they have a real good shot only to watch them come out on Sunday and crap down their leg. Call me a pessimist if you will. I would LOVE for this to be the game where everything finally clicks but there is NOTHING indicating that will happen at this point. I’d feel much better if we had all of our playmakers healthy. But not having Hillis, Massaquoi and Ben Watson will not be easy to overcome. Niners 27 – Browns 10.

  • mgbode

    we can win this game.

    the 49ers are still the same team that needed 2 Ted Ginn Jr. return TDs to beat the Seahawks.

    the same team that let Romo come back on them in the 4th quarter.

    the same team that had their “seahawks game” vs. Cinci in a 13-8 win.

    the same team that needed 2 missed FGs, a late fumble, and Trent Cole leaving the game with an injury (he was disrupting everything until he left) to beat the Eagles.

    yes, they are also the same team that dismantled the Bucs.

    and yes, they are also the same team that traded punches with the Lions and came up on top.

    ————

    my point is that they have required alot of fortune to get their 5-1 record. they are definitely a better team than we are at this point, but they are not infallible by any means. this is a game we can win and a game that we should go in feeling we can keep it close (and from there anything can happen).

    so, let’s eliminate the ST snafus, play great defense, and get enough from Colt and the offense to sneak out of the Bay area with a win!

  • jimkanicki

    harv is right. ‘stout’ and ‘motor’ are verboten.

  • -bobby-

    Agreed mgbode. Also, I dont feel like a ton will be missed with MoMass and Watson out. Watson hasnt been as important to the O this year as last, and I think if MoMass is out then a Little Moore production might be coming… (get it??)

  • BuckeyeDawg

    The Niners are not that good. yeah, they’re 5-1, but mgbode explained why that is a bit deceiving.

    We need to keep Gore and Ginn in check and make Alex Smith beat us. We also will probably need a defensive or special teams TD. Keep the ball on the ground and wear them down with Hillis/Hardesty. Control the clock. All of these things are do-able if they play well.

    This game is definitely winnable. No pressure, no expectations. The defense looks like it might be good enough to pull it off.

    16-13 Browns.

  • B-bo

    Yes, -bobby-, really. The Niners are a team hitting its stride after the bumpy start that mgbode detailed so well. We looked overwhelmed in some of the most basic areas. We don’t defend the run well (it’s becoming a tradition), and that’s what they do best. Our safeties are suspect against athletic TEs, and they have two of them. We are great against teams #1 WRs, but pretty terrible against the rest, and they have multiple competent-and-better wideouts. Their pass rush has been solid, and much of our o-line has struggled. They have one of the top special teams units, and our is, well, awful. I’m not sure why it is you’re so shocked that anyone might feel this matchup is beyond us, given what we’ve seen from the Browns this year. A win here would be wonderful but stunning, to me at least.

  • B-bo

    @BuckeyeDawg I agree that it should be a game to let loose and play. But we say “no pressure, no expectations”, yet a loss (particularly an ugly one) will still have the mob out en masse next week calling for Shurmur and Holmgren’s heads on a platter. There’s no such thing as “no pressure, no expectations” for many Browns fans.

  • ben

    I agree with #1. Sadly, i don’t think there’s anything the Browns can do to win this game.

    “Any given Sunday”
    “That’s why they play the game.”
    “etc.”

  • christopher

    I’m with mgbode an Bobby on this one…

    The 49ers record is as suspect as they come.

    Force Smith to throw and send Cribbs gunning on Ginn and it’s really a tossup.

  • Lyon

    if there is a division I have confidence in playing, it’s the NFC West.

  • Lyon

    & I agree with Kirk. We need Thomas & Mack to step up their game. To do this, we need to run to Thomas’ side a lot more. It seems like we out think ourselves & run right more often than not.

  • -bobby-

    B-bo: We are giving up 3.9 yards per attempt.thats good for 9th best in the league. Thats against some good rbs in Benson, DMC, CJ. So I dont know where you get we dont defend the run well. As for the TEs, they also have Alex Smith throwing them the ball. When Alex has done good it was against the blitz… you know that thing we often do not go to on D.

    BTW- Det is giving up 5 yards per carry on D… good for 28th in the league. Played right into SF. For as good as Suh may be, and Fairley for that matter, they are better at rushing the QB, not stopping the run. SF ran for over 200 yards and had 7 yards a pop. I highly doubt that will happen to us, so yes I am feeling pretty good.

  • mgbode

    @bobby – as long as I don’t think about STs, I do too.

  • Ike

    Daniel Wolf, thank you!!!!

    It’s painfully obvious McCoy is more comfortable in a no-huddle scheme. I’m not saying it has to be our base offense, but how about mixing it in to a drive or two, just to show SF a different look? Can’t understand how the Browns haven’t tried it yet.

    The Browns win if they can contain Frank Gore AND eliminate the special teams gaffes. Without Gore running wild, I still don’t think Alex Smith is good enough to pick the Browns defense apart with his arm alone. And the Browns held Darren McFadden to under 100 yds but gave up 2 Special Teams TDs to OAK; without those 2 TDs, that would’ve been a very winnable game.

    Like Tony Grossi from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, there’s nothing about this game that tells me the Browns can win…and that’s when they usually do. We shall see..

  • Big Z

    The Brownies win if

    1) Hillis plays
    2) D stops the run and continues to be OH SO STINGY against the pass
    3) Special Teams gets their act together

  • B-bo

    Benson’s biggest week so far? Against us. Joseph Addai’s? Against us. Daniel Thomas’? Against us. Chris Johnson’s? Us again. Darren McFadden’s? Hey, not against us! Though he thoroughly demolished us on their opening drive for a TD, so I wouldn’t say he was held in check. Leon Washington, I will grant you, was shut down. And is, last I checked, still Leon Washington. Nice work against one of the bottom 3-4 offenses in the league by most any measure though. We’ve let just about everyone have a big day on us, and I don’t see it being much different for Frank Gore. In fact, I think Gore is even more of a headache than most of those other guys, as he is a real threat in the short passing game as well. I’m not rooting against us, I just don’t think this matchup works for us in any significant way.

  • Ghost To Most

    I think the Niners have overachieved thus far. Wouldnt be the least bit surprised to see the Browns win this one.

    Browns 17-13