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.
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?