Vikings-Browns Game Plan

Managing the game againt a 3-4 defense and minimizing mistakes will be the key for the Vikings, while the Browns are expected to make the Vikings prove they can stop the run. Get the news, matchups and injuries from both camps.

VIKINGS

The Vikings, who used a 3-4 defense for a three-game stretch earlier this season, will see a 3-4 look from another team for the first time this season.

That means the shuffled offensive line will have to be ready to face different schemes after a short week of preparation.

Either Melvin Fowler or Cory Withrow will be head-up on nose tackles Jason Fisk or Ethan Kelley throughout the game. A linebacker also will have to be picked up by the linemen throughout.

Coach Mike Tice is confident that going against a 3-4 defense in certain situations during practice will prove beneficial, but, like all coaches, he knows that it's less than ideal to play a Monday night game on the road and then have to begin preparations for a team you know little to nothing about.

Quarterback Brad Johnson is 3-0 since taking over as the Vikings' starter, and a big part of his success has been the ability to keep mistakes at a minimum. The Vikings run game, assuming Mewelde Moore's sore ankles recover quickly, should have success against the 28th-ranked rushing defense in the NFL.

The Vikings' 25th-ranked defense will be counted on to continue playing well, especially with the offense struggling to score.

Minnesota hasn't given up more than 21 points in a game during its three-game winning streak. Among the most important things has been Brian Williams' success at cornerback since he replaced the injured Fred Smoot. Williams has two interceptions in the two games he has started.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

The Vikings defensive line, which helped hold the Packers to 21 yards rushing Monday night, will face a much tougher task Sunday as it attempts to slow down Cleveland's Reuben Droughns. Droughns is fourth in the AFC and seventh in the NFL with 868 yards on the ground this season. One of the keys will be nose tackle Pat Williams ability to clog the middle, forcing Droughns to the outside.

While Vikings left tackle Bryant McKinnie will be busy with Browns right end Alvin McKinley (three sacks), the Vikings line also will have to account for linebacker Chaun Thompson. Thompson is tied with McKinley for the team sack lead.

Cornerbacks Antoine Winfield and Brian Williams will have their hands full against Browns rookie receiver Braylon Edwards, who had a season-high six catches for 90 yards on Sunday against Miami. Williams has two interceptions in two games since replacing the injured Fred Smoot.

INJURY IMPACT

  • WR Nate Burleson should be ready after sitting out Monday night, but if he doesn't go, look for Koren Robinson to play a big role Sunday. Robinson caught a season-high three passes, including a key 35-yard reception that set up the winning field goal against Green Bay, and clearly is getting more and more comfortable in the offense.

  • RB Mewelde Moore sprained both ankles, according to coach Mike Tice, on Monday night but should be fine.

  • RG Toniu Fonoti isn't expected to play because of groin injury, meaning Anthony Herrera probably gets the start. Chris Liwienski will be a candidate to reclaim a starting role that was his until the Green Bay game, but Herrera appeared to play well enough against the Packers to stay on the field.

  • Look for Melvin Fowler to start at center if his strained oblique muscle is feeling all right. If not, Cory Withrow will stay in the role for a second consecutive game.

    BROWNS

    The Browns will continue to hand Reuben Droughns the ball until the Vikings show they can stop him. There was concern when left guard Joe Andruzzi went down with a knee injury two weeks ago, but Mike Pucillo has stepped in and played well in Andruzzi's place.

    If the Browns can run the ball when they want to, they won't have to rely on Trent Dilfer to win the game. Dilfer has not played well on the road since the Browns beat Green Bay the second week of the season. The Browns have scored just three offensive touchdowns in the past four road games.

    MATCHUPS TO WATCH

  • Browns LB Matt Stewart vs. Vikings TE Jermaine Wiggins. Covering the tight end has been a problem for the Browns all season. Matt Stewart is quicker and more experienced covering tight ends than Kenard Lang, whom Stewart replaced in the starting lineup. Wiggins has 49 catches but no touchdowns.

  • Browns WR Braylon Edwards vs. Vikings CB Antoine Winfield. Edwards caught six passes last week. He is versatile enough to cross the middle and fast enough to run go routes down the sideline. Trent Dilfer has to be wary of free safety Darren Sharper, the Vikings' leader with five interceptions.

    INJURY IMPACT

    S Brodney Pool is a steady special teams player, and he was improving as a defensive back before spraining his ankle last week. Sean Jones will replace him in some situations, and that's a big drop-off, because Jones is not as fast as Pool.

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