July 23, 2014

Browns-Chiefs: Three things to watch

The Browns enter Arrowhead Stadium this afternoon as heavy underdogs and with a new starting quarterback for the third time this season. After the highs of the three-game winning streak, the team has lost two straight to NFC North opponents, and they’re looking to get back to the .500 mark. Facing one of the NFL’s fiercest and most surprisingly effective defenses, that’s no small task. Here’s three things I’m looking at if the Browns want to win or at least be competitive against the undefeated Chiefs this afternoon.

brownschiefs

1. You don’t need to be great, Campbell, just efficient.

Brian Hoyer’s not walking through that door any time soon (not without a set of crutches, anyway). So much of what Hoyer captured wasn’t capitalizing on some elite ability he had that the other guys didn’t. It was executing the offense as designed, getting the ball off quickly, scrambling when he needed to, and getting guys to believe in him. I’m hoping that the veteran Campbell will at least be able to do that. If he can avoid the migraine-inducing underhand flips and the multitude of sacks that are a result of not having pocket awareness, then maybe he has a chance. The veteran is 31-40 in 71 career starts. He was 4-2 in Oakland two years ago before getting injured. Why can’t he be a part of lightning in a bottle like Hoyer was and win this team 4, 5, or 6 games the rest of the way with a strong defense and special teams?

He has weapons in Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon that any team would love that can stretch the field with a pass delivered on target. If Davone Bess, Chris Ogbonnaya, Willis McGahee, or Greg Little come along for the ride, the Browns offense can move the ball and stay in games against good teams. They could’ve let Green Bay get a lot uglier last week, and they didn’t. This team has fight, and they’ll need it all this afternoon.

2. Ugly up the game, win the turnover battle

The Browns quite frankly have a better chance if this game is ugly and low scoring. The Chiefs defense is very good (11.6 points per game), but so is the Browns’. If this game is played in the teens, then the Browns really have a shot. As we’ve heard all week, Ray Horton defenses have had some success against Alex Smith. I think the turnover battle is going to be huge. If the Browns can win the turnover battle, I think it goes a long way toward staying in the game.  Give the offense a short field or two on which to operate. The Chiefs are +11 in turnover margin, so it’s a large part of what they do on D. Couple that with the 35 sacks, and they are very much a big play defense. In terms of yardage, the Browns D has only given up 100 more total yards than the Chiefs throughout the season. Avoid the mistakes, and it can go a long way today.

3. Linebackers Need To Step Up

If you look at the statistics for the linebacker unit as a whole, they’re not good. Craig Robertson is statistically the 2nd worst inside linebacker when it comes to pass coverage among those with 50% of the team’s snaps. D’Qwell Jackson is clearly on the downside of his career and is only putting up average numbers at best. The pass rush from Mingo, Kruger, and the rest on the outside needs to get better (Kruger and Mingo rank 20th and 23rd among 3-4 outside linebackers out of 26 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus). The defensive line has been great, Haden has been phenomenal, and the rest of the secondary is improving. It’s time for the guys in the middle of the defense to step up their games too.

Consider this your open thread for Browns discussion. What’s on your mind? Do the Browns have a chance today?

  • Sam

    Great point on the backers. Weeden’s ineptitude has overshadowed how poorly the backers have played, especially Robertson. Most of our third down woes rest on the shoulders of the linebackers in coverage.

  • Lyon25

    They’re either too deep, allowing WRs to cross the field, or too shallow, allowing TEs to pick up the firsts. And Robertson has just been abused by RBs out of the backfield too. Then again, a semblance of a pass rush would help the coverage issues immensely.

  • @TheDeePagel

    Awesome Kirk. I echo the point on the linebackers also. Jackson has always been in that Trent Richardson category to me. It always seems pundits like to point out that he is a good linebacker, but I just never see the explosiveness and play changing ability that you crave in a middle linebacker. I hear his leadership is off the charts, and his ability to be the “quarterback” of the defense…..however, I think this defense really misses a true hole-busting (gross), and like I mentioned earlier, a true play changing middle linebacker.

  • FearTheElf

    I’m trying to find 3 things to watch…other than the Browns.

  • C-Bus Kevin

    Was Gordon loafing it there on the first long ball from Campbell? Lay out for that. Try to get a PI call. Something.

  • Harv 21

    nice team leadership by Haden on the first drive with a completely unnecessary 15 yard tack on. Hey, resulted in 3 points but he sure “felt you,” right Joe?

  • C-Bus Kevin

    What’s with Bess having the dropsies. Get that #15 jersey off of him.

  • C-Bus Kevin

    Three plays per drive. Probably 10 drives for the game….

    I hope the defense is ready for this marathon.

  • Harv 21

    he’s your sure-handed veteran presence on offense. Who suddenly can hear a cat lapping milk at 30 yards. The defense should be good and exhausted by midway through the second quarter.

  • C-Bus Kevin

    I hope the Browns fans the just showed live in KC. Can’t imagine dropping $1k or more to travel to see this.

  • Harv 21

    and KC has already run 5 times as many offensive plays as the Browns. Wonder what the league record is. Death by a thousand cuts, until we’re exhausted and they go for the kill shots.

  • Sam

    Recipe for disaster: Browns offense can’t convert a third down; Browns defense can’t stop anyone on third down.

  • C-Bus Kevin

    You know what’s the best part about watching Browns games? Seeing highlights from good teams around the league.

    Seriously…how did this team win 3 games?

    Also, as I watch yet another screen pass go for big yards (and a TD), I’m left wondering, is this the downside of the blitz-heavy Horton defense, or are our guys incapable of sniffing out a screen?

  • Whatever

    Easily the worst 3rd down defense in the league. Game is already over. Pathetic…

  • C-Bus Kevin

    Has anyone ever gone an entire half without a first down?

    Side note: Loving Chud’s old lady sunglasses

  • FearTheRoo

    Browns will go a half without a first down and KC won’t go a possession without scoring. This game is over.

  • FearTheRoo

    Doesn’t matter if we scored. KC gets the ball with almost 3 minutes left. Can easily score before the half.