Chiefs Season Preview: Week #13 Browns

The Chiefs will return to Cleveland Municipal Stadium to face the Browns for the first time since 2002, when the Chiefs won one of the most bizarre games in NFL history. Can the Browns return the favor this season?

Trailing 39-37 and having time for just one more play, the Chiefs had seemingly lost the game when time expired as John Tait ran out of bounds.

But before the play was over, former Browns linebacker Dwayne Rudd removed his helmet and drew a 15-yard personal foul penalty, giving the Chiefs one final opportunity to score.

A Morten Andersen field goal gave the Chiefs a 40-39 victory that fans in Cleveland remember all too well.

The Chiefs have been hated ever since, and you better believe they won't get a warm reception from the Cleveland faithful when they return.

OFFENSE
Browns general manager Phil Savage made aggressive moves early in free agency, adding three offensive players that he hopes will make a huge difference.

Cleveland had a difficult time sustaining drives in 2005, and a big reason for that was poor offensive line play. Offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon neglected the running game at times, which is puzzling when you consider that second-year quarterback Charlie Frye was the signal-caller for almost half the season. The Browns attempted just 24 rushes per game.

This year, there's no doubt that the Browns will be a run-first offense. They added free agent center LaCharles Bentley and left tackle Kevin Shaffer. Both of them signed long-term deals worth more than $35 million and will be the building blocks up front. Both players are outstanding run blockers, particularly Bentley, who many considered to be the best available free agent this off-season.

Running back Reuben Droughns shouldn't have any problem matching last year's numbers (1,232 yards, two touchdowns), but expect him to score more. If the Browns hope to put up points this year, they'll have to do a better job in the red zone. They were among the league's worst red zone offenses, primarily because they lacked a real threat in the passing game.

That won't be a problem this year.

Tight end Kellen Winslow Jr., a former first-round draft choice, is finally healthy and eager to prove himself. Last year's first-round draft choice, receiver Braylon Edwards, is also completely healthy. He missed six games last season with lingering injuries.

Both of these players will be a huge asset to Frye, a quarterback who plays with confidence and isn't afraid to throw the ball downfield.

One receiver who he'll have no trouble finding is another free agent signing, Joe Jurevicius, a player that could be a huge problem for Kansas City. The Chiefs have always struggled with tall, physical receivers. At 6'5", 230 pounds, Jurevicius is a throwback to former Broncos receiver Ed McCaffrey. Jurevicius caught 10 touchdown passes last season.

DEFENSE
Though Cleveland's offense struggled, their defense showed considerable improvement at times last year. They finished 16th in total defense and in one game, their best of the season, they held the Indianapolis Colts to just 13 points in a road loss. Clearly, they can play.

Cleveland's biggest problem was a lack of pass rush. In head coach Romeo Crennel's defensive system, if you don't pressure the quarterback you don't have a chance. Think back to Crennel's defenses at New England. He had the right personnel (including a deep corps of linebackers), and all of them were above-average pass-rushers. Opposing quarterbacks never knew where the pressure was coming from, but they knew it was coming. The same couldn't be said for last year's Browns.

That's why they decided to upgrade their defensive talent, and with Crennel as the coach, it's no surprise that his two key free agents were former Patriots. Linebacker Willie McGinest and defensive tackle Ted Washington were signed in the off-season, and in all likelihood, they'll finish their careers in Cleveland. Though both players are past their prime, they are still productive and thrive in the 3-4 scheme. Washington is almost impossible to move along the line, and his presence alone will improve Cleveland's run defense.

First-round draft choice Kamerion Wimbley, who is expected to play outside linebacker, will compete for a starting job immediately. He is a great pass-rusher but struggles against the run. He's a bit undersized to play on the line of scrimmage (6'3", 241 pounds), but the Browns won't hesitate to put him there in third-and-long situations.

As for the Browns' secondary, they should be in good hands if defensive back Gary Baxter can continue to ascend. He's made unbelievable strides over the last few years and is starting to make a name for himself. He's got great size and exceptional ball skills, but lacks speed. He doesn't have great range and could end up being a better safety. Cornerbacks Leigh Bodden and Daylon McCutcheon will battle in camp for the other starting job.

BOTTOM LINE
The Chiefs really shouldn't know what to expect from the Browns. There's so many variables and uncertainties surrounding this team. If they are able to keep everybody healthy, there's no question the Browns can be go 8-8 and stay competitive.

If their free agents pan out as Savage hopes they can, and if Crennel can get players to buy into his system, then certainly the Browns could beat the Chiefs.

I just don't see it happening. Expect the Chiefs to win a close one, just don't expect it to be as close as the last one at Municipal Stadium!

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