Adkins: Forcing Favre

There will be a lot of "analysis" out there on the web prior to today's game, but Lane Adkins offers a unique look unavailable elsewhere. The Browns have a tough task ahead of them, but the outcome is never destined in advance...

You have to hand it to the NFL. The love for Cleveland is immeasurable.

Thusly, in version 11 of the hopeful return to glory in Cleveland, the Browns face possibly the most explosive running back in the game, Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings.

Of course, the Vikings happen to have Brett Favre at QB.

This match-up couldn't get any better -- for the Vikings, right?

The Browns, a team which has not been capable of stopping the run, much less contain lesser running backs, has to set their sights on Peterson.

And in Cleveland, Sunday afternoon, the Browns are going to set their sights high.

If the Vikings and Peterson are going to taste defeat, it will be due to the Cleveland defense keying on and containing Peterson -- while forcing future Hall of Fame QB Brett Favre to beat them.

Throughout the week, Browns defenders have talked about playing smart, physical football on Sunday. From the linemen needing to maintain their gap integrity and the linebackers having to execute, the Browns have been focused on the chore at hand.

Primary concern number-one is Peterson.

Yes, the young man is that good. He's a true game-changing back who can explode through the tiniest of a seam and end up 80-yards down-field.

But, in actuality, there may not be a better time for the Browns to play the Vikings.

Playing at home in the season opener, the hosts generally play at a higher level. Plus, in this case, Favre (who did not sign with the Vikings until training camp had concluded) still has to shake the rust from his surgically repaired right-arm, while battling with a torn rotator cuff.

The Vikings offensive scheme is handled by offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who once was the QB coach in Green Bay while Favre was with the Packers. Schematically, Favre knows the system well. But how in-tune is the QB with the skill position players on the Minnesota roster after missing so much meaningful practice time?

What makes this match-up even more interesting is going to be what occurs in the trenches.

The Vikings line-up a rookie at RT in Phil Loadholt, a relatively unproven center in John Sullivan, and a good run-blocker and less than impressive pass-blocker in LT Bryant McKinnie. The guards are the strength of the Minnesota offensive line.

LG Steve Hutchinson is one of, if not the best at his position. Over the past two seasons, there has not been a runner better at running behind the left-side of the offensive set than Peterson.

Sullivan is going to have his hands full and will be assisted throughout against Cleveland NT Shaun Rogers. Rogers presence can create positive situations for this Browns defense as he can penetrate and force the Vikings to alter their systematic line-play.

In pressuring the edges, the Vikings will have to commit to adding protection, as the odds are OLB's Kamerion Wimbley, David Bowens and Alex Hall will gain some push.

This push could be the telling sign of this game.

As the Browns move a safety up to help support the run and are effective, Favre is going to do what he historically has done throughout his storied career -- look for the TE and make some ill-advised throws into coverage.

The uncertainty is in whether Favre has the arm any longer to out-throw the coverage, which was a quality that made him unique while a member of the Green Bay Packers.

For Minnesota, running the football still must be Option A. But with Favre under center, anticipate the Vikings passing game will gain more opportunities due to his presence.

Come 4:00 p.m. Sunday, if the Browns have contained the dynamic Peterson, the outcome of this game may not be as rock solid as most anticipate.

And that's why they play the game.


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