Another week, another tough opponent for the Browns. They play the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday as the Battle of Ohio opens another chapter. Cleveland is reeling after taking a few hard losses at the hands of the Reds this summer, and well the Browns have lost the past few times playing against the Bengals. After last week’s loss to the Ravens the heat got packed on by fans and media toward a certain defensive back, Eric Wright, rather harshly and somewhat un-deservedly as everyone has a bad day every now and then; and Wright has arguably been on of the top corners in the league the last year or two. That is, at least, how the Bengals apparently see him, as they have stated that they see him as a top DB. Wright has the support of fans and his coach on Sunday, when it matters, but he needs to step up and shrug off last week’s performance as he has to stare down Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens on Sunday. What makes it difficult at this point to identify the keys to winning is that many new, and old injuries, are hampering the Browns and keeping playing decisions delayed until the last minute. A lot of the speculation is pointing at a 3rd start for Seneca Wallace, which likely means a very cautious offense once again. Whoever does play at QB has a tough challenge facing a very stingy Bengals defense that has been lights out since an opening week blowout by the Patriots. The Bengals offense has not really been looking good at all, surprisingly, and their defense is prone to big plays, which makes them very beatable, and the Browns have been at least competitive for most of each game this year. Sine the Brownies are allergic to September, it may be that October sees things begin to improve.
– Pound the rock. My motto this season, and most, is that the Browns need to focus on running the ball successfully. It was successful against a very good defense last week. Peyton Hillis is a force with the football in his hands. He doesn’t have to make defenders miss because he can just run them all over. If Harrison is healthy and plays, it might be a nice combo if he can get going too, but the Browns need to do is get Hillis in first to bottle up and defense and then let a speedy guy, Harrison or Cribbs in there to get them off balance.
– Enough with the checkdown passing game. Seriously, you can’t get any real offensive rhythm if the QB refuses to actually throw the football. Wallace was too quick last Sunday to check down to Hillis, as evidenced by his 7 catches of the very short yardage variety. Cribbs was the only receiver that he targeted and that eventually became clear as that is the only person the Browns secondary put any effort into guarding. Massaqoui was an afterthought last week, very disappointing for a guy who had the goal of establishing himself as the team’s #1 receiver this season. It was more apparent than in the previous two games last week that the wide receiving corps really lacked a playmaker, so this week someone other than Cribbs needs to step up. Watson has been consistent, and Robiskie and MoMass have really been the opposite. The key to this game is someone on offense stepping up, like Hillis last week, and catching the football.
– On the same wave length. Spread the football around. Wallace completed passes to just 4 people last week. Sure there was injuries and people were very well guarded, but still, more guys getting touches on offense opens things up and makes the defense have to pay attention to more people, making them vulnerable. The Browns need to spread the football around early, which could allow them to focus on fewer people later as it would make the Bengals aware of other players on the field other than Cribbs. Sam Aiken, recently acquired from the Patriots, could actually be a big help in this matter, as he has some big play abilities and can get open.
– Better QB play. The same old drum just keeps on banging. If the Browns are going to pull this game out they need a better performance from the man behind center, whoever it is. Not that Wallace was bad last week, he just wasn’t good either. No turnovers was a big plus against the Ravens, but the Bengals defense is even more about turning the ball over and knocking around the QB, the Ravens are, at this point, more of a contain defense who will bend but not break. The Bengals defense is however vulnerable because they try to jump routes and take risks. They will however make the most out of any mistake the offense makes. An under thrown or mistimed pass will be intercepted by Leon Hall or Jonathan Joseph. Wallace or Delhomme, whoever it is come Sunday, will have to focus on making crisp passes and spreading the ball around, to give those two guys less chances to force turnovers. Many times last week Wallace was too focused on Cribbs and missed a chance to hit an open man elsewhere, and that is one thing that needs to change.
– The Defense. The first 2 weeks were very encouraging for the Browns defense. They looked solid and were getting turnovers. Last week, however, whether it was injuries or a collective bad day, they were not able to get any pressure on Joe Flacco and his receivers benefitted mightly from having ample amount of time to get open. Eric Wright, Sheldon Brown, TJ Ward and just about everyone else struggled. One thing the Bengals have, like the Ravens, is a lot of offensive firepower, even though they have not shown it yet this year. I don’t wanna see the Browns be the ones who the Bengals finally figure it out against. The most important thing in this, dare I say it, winnable football game, is defense. The Browns know they can play well on that side of the ball, they just have to buckle down and do it. The Bengals defense is going to bring it, and the Browns need to play with the same kind of intensity they showed last year when they stomped Pittsburgh. Rob Ryan should throw all kinds of blitzes at Carson Palmer and make him get rid of the ball fast, or get hit and regret it. The real simple idea of the day should be, put Palmer on his ass. That is where all offensive struggles stem from, and the Bengals do not have the best O-line, so it should be possible to get at Palmer.
– Cribbs. He is the key to this team winning. He can do so many things so well. Regardless of how you get him the ball, he needs his hands on it much more than he has been getting it so far this year. Run the flash, use him as the half back, the QB, WR, whatever. He can make things happen.