Five Ways to Conquer the Saints
It’s the home opener for the Cleveland Browns, and their opponent is a formidable one. The Saint roll into town coming off of a hard loss (much like the Browns) and expect to get back to .500. Facing a Super Bowl contender should not strike fear into any professional athlete; I anticipate the Browns will be determined to prove the talking heads wrong. For that to happen, the Browns must be successful in a few aspects…
#1 – Make Drew Brees Uncomfortable
The opposing quarterback will, if he has time, throw for several touchdowns and have a great deal of yardage in this contest. However, should the Browns collapse the pocket regularly, there’s a chance they can get in the signal caller’s head. Repetitively doing this could lead to little-seen errors. While unlikely, making the former Super Bowl MVP feel awkward in drop backs is extremely important for the upset.
#2 – Keep their Foot on the Accelerator
It’s well-known that the visitors tend to score a tremendous amount of points on a weekly basis. Should the Browns find themselves in a situation to score, they must be aggressive towards getting as many points as possible. This relates to trying for touchdowns over field goals, and going for it on fourth downs as opposed to looking for better field position. This is not to say they should be reckless but they should also not expect to get a lead and simply “sit on it” – the Saints are very capable of quick strikes (and to do so frequently).
#3 – Have the Secondary Play Up to their Potential
This is only Justin Gilbert’s second professional game, but he is in for a tall order (and needs a bounce back performance). The opposition can drive the ball down to any guy with ease; if Brees spots a weakness in the Browns’ secondary, he will exploit it. Every guy covering a receiving option – cornerbacks, safeties, and anyone on Jimmie Graham, must play exceptional for the defense to succeed. Otherwise, it could be yet another long day at First Energy Stadium.
#4 – Beat the Blitz
Rob Ryan has an M.O. of blitzing his opponents “to death”. The Browns should know this, as he roamed their sidelines just a few years ago. That being said Brian Hoyer must be smart in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage. The quarterback has to get the ball out quickly on passing plays, and with regularity. Additionally, Hoyer should know whether to audible to running or passing plays that can get the ball in areas soon-to-be unoccupied by defenders.
#5 – Win the Turnover Battle
This point is extremely obvious and can be applied to almost any NFL contest, but it’s still important in Sunday’s matchup. Facing a potent offense, the Browns can ill-afford to give the Saints additional opportunities to create points following turnovers. I firmly believe the Browns’ defense can withstand a turnover or two a game, but one deep in their territory or during a critical point – and it could be the difference between a win and a loss.
Conclusion: When the schedule came out a few weeks ago, fans and media knew this was not going to be an easy home opener for the Browns. Again, they will have to play nearly flawless to have a shot at a victory, but some lucky breaks wouldn’t be the worst thing either. I do not have all the confidence in the world that the Browns can accomplish three, let alone all five, of these tasks but I’m willing to watch the game to find out.