The Browns will look to make it two in a row as they host the Atlanta Falcons Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Although the Falcons come into town with a 3-1 record and many consider them a favorite to make the playoffs, there are a lot of reasons to like the Browns in this game. The Browns will look to neutralize some of the Falcons strengths as they continue to establish their identity as a hard hitting, ‘smash mouth’ football team.
The main challenge for the Browns will be slowing down the Falcons offense. Here is the first of a few examples of a Falcons’ strength playing into a Browns’ strength. Although the Falcons feature a dangerous passing attack, the running game is the bread and butter of their offense. Atlanta is averaging close to 145 yards per game on the ground, forth best in the NFL. The Browns defense, however, has yet to allow a back to run for 100 yards and has not given up a rushing TD this season. That being said, perhaps the reason why the Browns rushing defense has been able to achieve said accomplishments is because their pass defense is in the lower third of the league. This suggests that the Browns are committing too many of their defensive resources to stuffing the run, leaving their secondary vulnerable, or that other teams simply feel like they do not need to run the ball to score on the Browns. The Browns have already surrendered seven passing TDs this season. It will be a tough test for the Cleveland secondary to cover Roddy White, who is an emerging star at WR, and the legendary pass catching tight-end Tony Gonzalez.
On offense Peyton Hillis will be looking for his third straight 100 yard game. This is another instance where the Browns can neutralize a Falcons strength. By now, everyone knows that Falcons defensive-end John Abraham can be a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. The veteran sack artist has been a pass rushing machine for years. Unfortunately for him, the Browns best two players are their left tackle Joe Thomas and the big bruising runner Hillis. Expect a healthy dose of runs to the left side early in the game Sunday from the Browns. Their goal will be to bring the battle to Abraham’s doorstep, tiring him out and opening up the play action pass for later in the game. An interesting match up to watch for will be how the young Falcons line-backing core, particularly MLB Curtis Lofton who the Falcons hope will be a leader on defense, responds to the healthy dose of Hillis they will face Sunday.
While the Browns offense will live and die with their running game, whoever the Browns QB ends up being will have to be extra careful Sunday, as the Falcons lead the league with eight interceptions. As for the QB situation, starter Jake Delhomme has been practicing with the team during the week. Eric Mangini and the always secretive Browns coaching staff are saying they are not sure if Delhomme will be ready to come back by Sunday. If that is the case, it will be another start for the nimble footed Seneca Wallace, who has done a good enough job in Delhomme’s stead.
It is interesting how little publicity the injury situation with Delhomme is generating. This probably says one of two things. Either the media is tired of trying to pry information out of the tight lipped Mangini, or people think there just is not that big of a difference between Delhomme and Wallace in terms of ability at present. Perhaps both reasons are factoring in, or a third possibiliy is that Cleveland is too busy gushing over Hillis and their rushing attack to even worry about whose going to be under center come Sunday.
Smart money is on the talented Falcons to fly out of Cleveland with a win. The match up, however, is not as lop-sided as one might think . If the Browns come out focused, play their style of game and avoid costly mistakes, we just might be talking about a Cleveland Brown’s winning streak on Monday morning.
About the Author
Written by Fran Berkman
Francis (Fran) Berkman is a graduate of Cornell University in Ithaca, NY with a BS in Human Development. He is currently working towards a master's degree in journalism at Hofstra University. He lives in Massapequa, NY.