... maybe there are a few ways the Cleveland Browns can win today.
Listen, I am the ultimate optimist. You all know that. I know there is maybe a 5% chance that the Browns win today. My biggest hope is that the Browns continue to be competitive in every game, show heart and show a continued development of the young players against what is assumed to be the Death Star New England Patriots.
But even the Death Star went down.
So how could the home team shock the world, cash in as the underdog and make this optimist proud? Here are 3 things that would have to happen for the Browns to be the talk of the football world:
Run the Ball
It is an age old plan in football. The opposing team has a great quarterback/offense, you run the ball. Run the ball to keep your defense fresh. Run the ball to keep their offense off the field. Run the ball to keep their offense from getting into a great rhythm. Run the ball to limit the number of total possessions in the game.
This season the Browns have been a great running team. They lead the league with 149.3 yards per game and only trail the 49ers, who have played 5 games already, by 10 yards for the most total in the league. They also lead the league with a whopping 5.7 yards per carry with Oakland second at 5.3 and no one else higher than 4.7.
With Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson, the Browns are not just running the ball a lot of times but they are doing so effectively. Crowell is third in the league with 394 total yards and has 3 touchdowns. Duke is 27th in the league with 148 yards. Crowell and Johnson are 1st and 2nd in the league in yards per carry as well.
If the Browns can continue to run the ball successfully, they could keep Tom Brady and the Pats offense off the field for much of the game. For their part, the Patriots are 15th in the league in rushing defense after 3 out of their first 4 opponents were run heavy teams. The Bills, in the Pats lone loss, were able to control the game on the ground.
The Browns have to try a similar philosophy as they face off with the Pats with their QB returning.
Patriots, Brady are Rusty
While we are all assuming Brady comes back with vengeance on his mind and just destroys a depleted Browns secondary, he has been away from the team for 4 weeks. Rust is a very real possibility for Brady and the Patriots.
With Tom out, New England had become a very run-oriented team. Not surprising giving that his replacements both got hurt and Julian Edelman was the backup QB. While Josh McDaniels and Brady are very familiar with each other, there is a lot of new on the team that will have to adjust and could lead to problems and maybe even turnovers.
Even Rob Gronkowski could have some rust issues after missing a couple of games and being very limited all season due to injuries. If he is a step slow, their lethal combination could turn into a problem for New England.
Brady, McDaniels and the Patriots offense have always been very creative. If there are signs of significant rust issues, expect a heavy dose of LeGarrette Blount running the ball. While that feels a lot like picking your poison, a rushing offense with Blount is far less scary than a passing offense with Brady.
Pryor and Gimmicks
While the Browns are likely to focus on Crow and Duke in the run game, WR Terrelle Pryor could also cause some problems with his versatility. He is currently 20th in the league in receiving yards, 290, and has shown a unique ability from the Wildcat formation to run and throw the ball.
For the Browns to win today, Pryor has to be the other big option for the offense while using gimmicks and trick plays at key points to surprise the Pats. Those two are mutually inclusive but could be connected some. Pryor on an end around pass back or with a double pass could be difficult for the Patriots to defend.
The Browns may have to throw out a fake punt or field goal, a random onside kick and even some gimmicked defenses to try to win. Jackson has made it clear that he wants his team to "Expect to Win," coaching like this today could prove that he is all in on his desire to win.
Will the Browns win today? Probably not. Even one of the most optimistic believes they have a 5% chance. To take advantage of that 5% they have to run the ball, use Pryor and get gimmicky while the Patriots have to show some serious rust upon Brady's return.
What chance do you give the Browns today and how would they go about pulling off the upset?null