Sunday's game against the Browns figures to be an ugly, low scoring game. The Browns are a team that likes to run the football on offense and play stout defense. The Bucs are going to try and establish a run game and play mistake free football. Running the football might be an issue for the Bucs in this game. Not only is left tackle Anthony Collins doubtful to play for the Bucs because of an injury but the Browns are a team that will bring pressure regardless of down and distance. We've seen the Bucs offensive line struggle mightely when Collins is in the lineup so expect more struggles when he's out of the lineup. Greg Cosell, from NFL Films who was on Fan Interference Thursday said yards will be hard to come by for the Bucs offense.
"Mike Pettine will blitz. I think they are good against the run," Cosell said. "This is a tough matchup for Tampa in terms of this defense. They'll struggle again to run the ball."
Not only is the Browns defense stout against the run, they also force turnovers. Cleveland has forced six of them in the past two games. That's exactly what Browns defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil emphasizes to his players. "We've really been stressing it the past couple of weeks attacking the football, especially in the run game. ... We got three footballs out this past week which is huge. Guys are taking coaching. They're listening.''
Maybe the biggest story for the Browns this year has been the play of quarterback Brian Hoyer. There is something to be said for a quarterback to have only thrown two interceptions halfway through the NFL season. Cosell agrees that Hoyer has been solid this year.
"He's had one bad game and it was a very bad one but other than that, Hoyer has played really efficient football," Cosell pointed out. "The problem they're starting to have now with the last two weeks is that they've been unable to run the ball since Alex Mack was injured."
Mack being injured gives the Bucs a chance to win this game. With Mack out, the Browns have struggled to run the football. They've averaged 146.4 yards rushing in their first five games, and only 54 in their last two. In their last game, they rushed 25 times for only 39 yards and a 1.6-yard average.
I've written before about the Bucs defensive line and how it has underachieved this year. Against Cleveland, there is no reason why Gerald McCoy and company can't have a major impact in this game. Pettine knows McCoy can be disruptive. "He's explosive, not just straight ahead. He's ultra-quick on the move, and that's hard to simulate in practice, too. It's definitely a concern. I know we have some things schemed to help us, but it is a big challenge for us." Filling in for Mack, will be Nick McDonald. If the Bucs can't get pressure on Hoyer Sunday, they don't deserve to win this game.
The Browns have improved greatly this year. They are getting solid quarterback play and playing very sound defense. If that sounds like a formula the Bucs wanted to use this year to win games, well, it is. At least through seven games, we can see which team has executed that plan better.
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