The Browns got a break in St. Louis when Rams running back Steven Jackson had to leave the game late in the first quarter with a back injury. They are unlikely to enjoy similar good fortune Sunday when Shaun Alexander leads the Seahawks into Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Alexander might not be the force he was in recent years, but stopping him is still going to be the key for the Browns winning their third straight game. Unfortunately for the Browns, they might be without one of their leading tacklers.
D'Qwell Jackson, the second-year inside linebacker from Maryland, limped off the field in the first quarter in St. Louis with a sprained ankle and did not return. Jackson leads the Browns with 60 tackles. He made three in his brief time against the Rams.
Another linebacker, Kris Griffin, was knocked out of the Rams game with a strained Achilles. Griffin leads the Browns with 11 special-teams tackles. His injury might be more serious than Jackson's and he will be missed if he cannot play Sunday, but not as badly as Jackson will be missed. Leon Williams and Andra Davis will start as inside linebackers and play nearly every snap on running downs if Jackson cannot play.
"I know both of those players will do everything they can to get back on the field," coach Romeo Crennel said. "When that's going to be, I have no idea. But we'll just put them out there and see when they're ready and take it day-by-day."
Jackson did not practice Wednesday. Normally Jackson and Davis start. Williams is part of a three-linebacker rotation inside. Davis is second on the team with 47 tackles. Williams is sixth with 34.
The Browns did not yield their previous average of 413 yards allowed while beating the Rams 27-20, but it was close enough to cause concern -- 393 yards. It might have been much worse if Steven Jackson hadn't been forced to leave the game at the end of the first quarter. D'Qwell Jackson's third and final tackle of the day occurred when he shoved Steven Jackson out of bounds after an eight-yard gain on a pass from Marc Bulger.
Outside linebacker Antwan Peek battled a foot injury early in the season. He had three tackles and a quarterback pressure against the Rams and is healthy again.
The rash of injuries at linebacker means other defenders have to play their best game against Seattle. The Seahawks will be fresh because they are coming off their bye.
Shaun Smith is ready to be one of those players. The defensive end received a game ball for the way he played against the Rams. He made a critical tackle of fullback Brian Leonard for no gain deep in Browns territory on fourth-and-one in the second quarter -- after D'Qwell Jackson was forced to leave. The play triggered a comeback from a 14-3 deficit.
"We're just playing football," Smith said. "Everybody keeps saying something about the D-line. It doesn't matter if a guy rushes for 150 yards if we get the "W." The Indianapolis Colts couldn't stop the run and they were the Super Bow champs. The only stat that matters at the end of the day is wins and losses."
The Browns still rank last in the NFL defensively, allowing an average of 410 yards a game.
--This game is critical to any chance the Browns have of making the playoffs. Four of the five games they play following this one are on the road.
--Brian Russell, the Browns' free safety in 2005 and 2006, is playing the same position for the Seahawks. The numbers do not lie; the Browns miss Russell. They have given up 18 touchdown passes, only two fewer than all of 2006.
--The Browns are not playing well defensively, but they are better than the last time they played the Seahawks. Seattle won 34-7 in Seattle four years ago when Matt Hasselbeck passed for 328 yards, Shaun Alexander rushed for 127 yards, Darrell Jackson had 102 receiving yards and Koren Robinson had 122 receiving yards.
BY THE NUMBERS: 17 -- Touchdown passes thrown by Derek Anderson in 2007. The Browns threw 15 in 2006.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I have always felt that on a football team, guys have to know their roles. I realize my role and I relish it." -- Joe Jurevicius, on being the Browns' third-down receiver.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Resting Jamal Lewis at times during practice last week kept the running back fresh for the game in St. Louis, so the Browns are using the same cautious strategy this week. Once again, they are likely to go with a three-man rotation at running back. Lewis would start followed by Jason Wright and Jerome Harrison.
"When I was in Baltimore, I always liked it when the back behind me could go in and not miss a beat and keep things going," Lewis said. "That's what we have going here. Jason and Jerome have been doing a great job."
Harrison was rediscovered in the Miami game because Lewis sat out with a foot injury. Harrison rushed for 57 yards against the Dolphins and 32 against St. Louis. He had all his success against the Rams in the second half.
The right foot injury is the reason the Browns are being cautious with Lewis in practice. Lewis says he feels fine, but he understands why the coaches don't want him being at his best on Wednesday and Thursday instead of Sunday.
PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES
--FB Lawrence Vickers is experiencing what coach Romeo Crennel described as 'concussion syndrome' and did not practice Wednesday.
--DB Kenny Wright is back with the Browns after missing the game in St. Louis for personal reasons. The Browns will need him on special teams if Kris Griffin (Achilles) cannot play.
--LB D'Qwell Jackson missed practice Wednesday because of a sprained ankle.
--With Jackson and Griffin both sidelined, Chaun Thompson is getting reps at inside linebacker.
--TE Darnell Dinkins is wearing a cast on his right hand in practice. Dinkins played against the Rams while wearing the cast.
GAME PLAN: An interesting sidelight to their game against the Seahawks is Seattle backup quarterback Charlie Frye played with the Browns until he was traded Sept. 9. It means he has the ability to give the Seattle defense inside information on the Browns offense.
Coach Romeo Crennel said Frye could tip off the Seahawks on subtle hand signals used by quarterback Derek Anderson and the Browns receivers, but he is not overly concerned.
"He understands the terminology and what we're trying to do offensively," Crennel said. "He'll be able to give them some insights. Will that be enough? I don't know.
"If he can pick up some of the non-verbal signals he might be able to help with that, but he doesn't know if they're the same or if they've been changed. It will be a guessing game. If we keep them the same, they might not figure it out until the second half. I don't think we're going to change much because there's a lot of volume in this offense. You'd have to dial it up exactly right."
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Browns WR Braylon Edwards vs. Seahawks S Brian Russell -- This matchup is personal, at least for Edwards. Last year when they were teammates, Edwards blasted Russell verbally for a vicious but clean hit by Russell that knocked out Edwards' friend, Bengals receiver Chad Johnson. Edwards won't try to beat Russell physically, except with his legs by running past the slower safety. For Russell, it is a matter of trying to stop a receiver with nine touchdown catches.
Browns SS Sean Jones vs. Seahawks TE Will Heller -- Jones played well against the Rams after being criticized for allowing tights ends to catch four touchdowns in the two previous games. Heller might not be as fast as some of the tight ends that have beaten Jones this season, but at 6-6, 270 pounds, he is a huge target for Matt Hasselbeck and will be difficult to take to the ground.
INJURY IMPACT: The Browns would miss Lawrence Vickers if concussion syndrome prevents him from playing against the Seahawks. Not only is Vickers a good lead blocker, but he also is five-for-five on third-and-one situations.
Depth is a problem at linebacker. The Browns lose instinct in the exchange if Chaun Thompson becomes part of the linebacker rotation, replacing D'Qwell Jackson. Jackson is hobbled with a sprained ankle.
Kris Griffin will be missed if he cannot play. The leading tackler on special teams has a strained Achilles. Coach Romeo Crennel is looking for a replacement among the players on the roster.