Browns-Rams Preview

The 3-5 Cleveland Browns play host to the 1-7 St. Louis Rams at 1 p.m. on Sunday at the stadium. It's an unappealing matchup on paper, but (most of you) will still watch.

Losing a game on a 99-yard punt return is very Cleveland Browns-esque.

Beating a good New Orleans Saints team when you're the heavy underdog is very Cleveland Browns-esque.

Sunday's opponent is the St. Louis Rams, which is not a good football team, and their last two weeks included a 31-21 win over the Saints on Oct. 30 and a 19-13 overtime loss to the Cardinals on Nov. 6.

That pattern is very… well, you get the idea.

The 3-5 Browns play host to the 1-7 Rams at 1 p.m. on Sunday. On paper and even on TV, this is not an appealing game. So why spend three hours this Sunday watching the game? Many won't and, frankly, I'm jealous.

By now most of you have seen Mike Polk's video, standing outside Cleveland Browns Stadium, weaning the Ryan Pontbriand jersey and unleashing his frustration from last Sunday's 30-12 loss to the Houston Texans.

Yet at the end of his rant, before the video ends, Polk hangs his head and says, "I'll see you Sunday."

Browns fans will come. Browns fans will cheer. Browns fans continue to only hope that sooner, rather than later, they will cheer winning football.

Can the Browns win this Sunday? You bet. It begins by stopping Steven Jackson.

Last week, Houston racked up more than 260 yards rushing and averaged 6.0 yards per carry against a Browns run defense that has been poor all season and every season dating back to 1999. What will change in a week?

"I'm not concerned with total yardage, but the yards per carry," Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron said in his press conference on Thursday. "When that gets consistently out of whack then you got issues."

Jauron said he'd like to see the yards per carry in the 3.7-3.8 range. Every opponent this season has averaged more than 4.0 yards per carry. The Browns need to improve and improve fast.

Jackson is in his eighth season in the league. By now, this is when running backs tend to fall off in production. Not Jackson. He is on pace to have his best season since his rookie campaign of 2004. Through seven games, Jackson has 579 yards and four touchdowns on 113 carries. Oh, by the way Coach Jauron, Jackson is averaging 5.1 yards per carry.

"He's a tremendous running back and they've had a lot of success running the ball. We're going to have to really step up," Jauron said.

"He's a very powerful back. He's probably as big and as strong as anybody that we've seen to this point. He's got good breakaway speed, when he gets to the secondary he can go. He can give you issues."

Speaking of having issues allow me to re-introduce you to the 2011 Cleveland Browns offense.

For the second consecutive week, the Browns running game will not have its top two backs in Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty. Instead, Chris Ogbannaya and Thomas Clayton will get the carries against the NFL's 32nd ranked rushing defense. The Rams have allowed an average of 153.6 yards per game.

Yes, very Cleveland Browns-esque.

Ogbannaya day last Sunday started with a fumble on his first carry. Clayton had five carries or 10 yards. In all, the Browns offense totaled 172 yards.

There is no magical breakdown entering this game. The Browns offense simply has to be functional. Avoid negative plays. Rack up first downs. Score points early and often.

There doesn't appear to be any improvement of the Browns offense from week-to-week, only flashes of what could be in the second half. The Browns need to finally turn those flashes into a full 60 minutes of positive plays — beginning with the first quarter — against these Rams. If it is more of the same, well, THEN THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO REASON TO WATCH ANOTHER SECOND OF THIS TEAM FOR THE REMAINDER OF THE SEASON!

If it were only that easy.

So, what time is that Jacksonville game next week?


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