Browns-Colts Preview

It sounds simple to the point of stupidity, but if the Browns are going to find success in 2011, they need to score touchdowns and not settle for field goals, especially in key late-game situations.

When the words are written down and then seen in black and white, it sounds too simple to the point of being ignorant.

The Cleveland Browns need to quit kicking field goals and score more touchdowns.


That simple statement plays off the mentality of "playing not to lose," which was certainly the case under former head coaches Eric Mangini and Romeo Crennel. Too often, the Browns offense eschewed aggressiveness and settled for too many field goals. While a lack of touchdown consistency is a direct result from a lack of talent, it is also a clear-cut separation tool of the NFL's haves and have nots. The Browns, not surprisingly, have staked their claim in the latter category.

Green Bay. New England. Yes, even Pittsburgh. How many times have you watched a game where they were knocking on the door and more often than not the Packers, Patriots or Steelers finished their drive with a touchdown?

The Browns? More often than not Mr. Automatic Phil Dawson trots onto the field.

The latest example came last Sunday. The Browns led 14-13 and were ready to seize control of the game. After a three-and-out on the Bengals first possession of the second half, the Browns took over and drove down to the Bengals' 4-yard-line. The Browns had a first and goal with less than 9:30 remaining in the third quarter.

First down: P.Hillis left guard for 1 yard

Second down: C.McCoy pass incomplete short left to E.Moore

Third down: C.McCoy pass incomplete short right to J.Cribbs

Fourth down: P.Dawson 20-yard field goal

The Browns settled for a field goal and a 17-13 lead. We all know how quickly that four-point lead disappeared in the following quarter.

In the preseason, we saw the Browns finish drives that began with an opponent's turnover or with good field position. McCoy showcased red zone targets in Evan Moore, Josh Cribbs, Ben Watson and Peyton Hillis. Even against vanilla preseason defenses, those were positive signs.

Then, last week happened. The Browns reverted back to their old form of three points or bust.

Touchdowns are not only important because they're more points than a field goal (Did that just blow your mind?) but they are demoralizing to the opponent's defense.

This Sunday, the Browns face a Colts defense that was demoralized over and over again by the Houston Texans 34-7 in week one. How'd the Texans do it? Backup running back Ben Tate had 116 yards rushing and one touchdown on 24 carries as the entire Texans team rushed for 167 yards.

Indianapolis' defense is built to play with the lead and stop the pass. This sets up for the Browns' backs of Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty. Hillis had a quiet 57 yards on 17 carries against the Bengals while Montario Hardesty finally got his first NFL regular season action and rushed for 18 yards on five carries. In all, the Browns averaged 3.2 yards per carry behind a banged-up offensive line.

Not good.

The Browns and that much-maligned offense line needs to avoid second- and third-and-long situations against this Colts defense, which thrives on their pass rush. Colts defensive ends Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney love to pin their ears back and get after the quarterback. Last season, that duo combined for 21 sacks. Regardless of what's going on with the Colts offense, their defense is talented.

Yeah, so, have you heard? Peyton Manning is injured this year. A sports network or two may have mentioned his neck injury. Last Sunday, the Colts offense was inept with Kerry Collins behind center. As a team, the Colts had 236 total net yards – 64 rushing and 172 passing. The team's lone touchdown didn't occur until the fourth quarter.

You get the feeling the 11 players on the Browns' defense are embarrassed by last week's loss? What better way to take those frustrations out than on an offense led by a 38-year-old quarterback?

Then again, last week's game was supposed to be a must-win. That's why the NFL is a must-watch.

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