First of all, be sure to check out the WFNY podcast previwing the game this morning. With kickoff just a few hours away, here are a few quick keys from yours truly if the Browns hope to get win number two of the season this afternoon at home.
Will the defensive tackles be able to stop Ryan Matthews and the ground attack?
It’s been a huge concern all season long without Phil Taylor. It gets even more hairy without Ahtyba Rubin, who has not been a key factor in the last two games and will miss today’s contest. The Browns will use their three rookies in Billy Winn, John Hughes, and Ishmaa’ily Kitchen along with Brian Sanford, the third-year player who was signed off the practice squad yesterday. They’ll hope to slow down Matthews, who rushed for nearly 1,100 yards last season but has struggled this season. Jackie Battle is their bruising goal-line back, and Ronnie Brown has been used to spell Matthews as well.
Who runs the ball for the Browns?
We all hope it’s Trent Richardson for the entire game this week. If it’s not, can Montario Hardesty provide a relief performance like he did against Cincinnati instead of last week’s forgettable performance. Will we get some production out of Chris Ogbonnaya in the screen and release valve passing game? Will Brandon Jackson be active in case Trent goes down early in the game again? Whoever is running the football, it’s just as much about the offensive line, who has had difficulty blocking in short yardage situations. They need to be able to give that push, even in obvious run situations. The Chargers have given up just 427 rushing yards in 6 games, so this will be tough sledding most of the day in all likelihood, even with Richardson in there.
Can we get through one game without a questionable Shurmur call?
Timeouts. Going for one instead of two. Replay challenges. It’s always something with Pat Shurmur. Could we just get through one game where we say the Browns either legitimately won or lost simply because the Chargers outplayed them on the field instead of having outcoached them on the sidelines?
That one big play…
Last week, if Josh Gordon catches that touchdown grab, the Browns take the lead late and could have held on for the win. There have been a handful of games this season where one or two plays have put the Browns in the loss column. Whether it’s fighting for a first down while being tackled by a defender, a goal line stand, or a key play call that springs someone free for a touchdown, there will be one play that we likely look back on as the difference maker. Can it be in our favor this time?
Bolts’ Vulnerable Pass D
The Chargers have surrendered nearly FIVE TIMES as many first downs via the pass compared to the run. They’ve given up 300-yard passing games in back-to-back weeks. Yes, that was Drew Brees (370) and Peyton Manning (309), but they also allowed big passing days to Carson Palmer (297), the benched Matt Cassel (252), and Matt Ryan (275). Can Brandon Weeden find the Joshes, Benjamin, and Cameron in stride down the field? Can he connect on more than one deep pass in this game? The Chargers have just 10 sacks, and the Browns have allowed only 11, so Weeden should have time.
Kirk Lammers grew up on the Marblehead Peninsula and is a graduate of THE Ohio State University. He now lives in Northeast Ohio, and you can find him at the ballpark, at the Q, or far too often on Twitter (@WFNYKirk)."