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.
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.
What say, there, fuzzy britches?