Week 1 of the 2010 season has come and gone. The Browns started off the first half of their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looking like a new team. The 2nd half saw a transformation to last year’s team as they let the Buccaneers get away with a close 17-14 win. Last week’s loss was indeed the tale of two halfs, as it appeared the Browns sent 2 different teams out on the field. The Browns led the game 14-3 after a long touchdown pass to Mohammad Massaqoui and a 10 yard TD dash by Peyton Hillis. Just before halftime however, Josh Freeman led the Bucs downfield for a late score and the momentum of the game shifted there. It goes without saying that if the Browns are going to win this weekend in their home opener against Kansas City, whom the Browns beat last season, they need to be consistent. Without further ado, here are what I have identified as the keys to a Browns’ victory this Sunday.
– Run the football. The Browns only ran the ball 21 times in Week 1. Not exactly what we were expecting from a team who came into the year being seen as a running football team with Jerome Harrison and Peyton Hillis. Combined on 18 carries the duo combined for 93 yards, 52 for Harrison and 41 for Hillis on 9 carries a piece. Look at that! Harrison had 5.8 yards per carry and Hillis had 4.6 yards per carry. Clearly the Bucs were unable to stop the run, and the Browns were winning until late in the 4th quarter, but Jake Delhomme still had 37 pass attempts and the team was in the lead!! Pound the ball on the ground, if it is working then stick with it. There is no explanation for only running 18 run plays with your running backs when you are winning a close game when they are averaging over 5 yards per carry combined. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Brian Daboll is bad offensive coordinator, and the Browns should have won that game with better clock management and better play calling. SO again this week, it is extremely important for the Browns focus to be on the ground, as it was last year when Harrison set the franchise record against the Chiefs for running yards in a game. If the running backs are gaining yards at will then they should be given the ball much more frequently.
– Don’t pass the ball 37 times. Jake Delhomme is a pretty solid QB, but he is not built for throwing the ball around 40 times, and in a game when you are winning until the last minutes, unless the passing game is really tearing it up, there should be no reason to throw that many times. He barely completed 50 percent of passes last sunday, and had 2 costly interceptions that led to the Bucs ultimately winning the game. His 59.2 QB rating was awfully reminiscent to that of certain former Browns QB’s who were gotten rid of for playing like he did on Sunday. I am sure the Browns fell in love with the pass after the 41 yard TD by MoMass but still, they should stick to running the game. I would like to see Delhomme throw the ball 30 or fewer times.
– Defense. The defense was pretty good against the Bucs, and typically when you keep a team under 300 total yards it is a good day. They got to the QB for 3 sacks and got an interception, and a fumble. It was really the offense that let the defense down and kept them on the field for over 32 minutes. The Defense must stay consistent and get pressure on Matt Cassel this Sunday, or else it could be another long day.
– Time of Possession. This goes back to running the football. The Browns barely had the ball for 27 minutes last week, that needs to improve drastically for them to win this weekend. If the ground game has success early they should stick to it and keep the ball away from the explosive Chiefs offense as much as possible. Jamaal Charles has the ability to bust a long TD run from any where on the field and Cassel has several weapons in the passing game, not to forget that they also have Thomas Jones who over the last 6 or 7 years has been one of the best running backs in football. Harrison and Hillis have to be the focus of the Browns offense and Delhomme or Wallace, whoever ends up playing, needs to be aware that risking turnovers by forcing passes should be limited, and they should try to move the ball on shorter routes using Ben Watson and Evan Moore, who are probably the best 2 possession receivers the team has.
– Get the playmakers involved more often. Another suggestion to give the ball to Harrison. He had 10 touches in total last week, 9 rushes and 1 catch. Cribbs rushed 3 times, caught 2 passes and threw 1 pass. That is just not enough offense run through those 2 guys. They can be game changers if the Browns coaching staff lets them do their thing, give them the ball.
That is about it this week. Hopefully the braintrust of Eric Mangini and Brian Daboll realize that the Browns’ best chance to succeed rests on the shoulders of the running attack and the big offensive line in the run game. 21 rushing plays is just a joke for a team that obviously lacks the ability and weapons to be out there throwing the ball 40 times a game, there’s no reason when the team has a lead that more than half of the plays should be in the air, it shortens your possessions and when the passing game is not doing well, see last week’s results, it makes the defense’s job harder and puts them on the field longer.