What Can Be Done to Knock Off the Bengals on the Road?
For whatever reason, the Bengals have been dominant at Paul Brown Stadium. Their only blemish this season is a tie to the Panthers; now the Browns have a chance to take them down for the first time there in 2014. It’s going to be very difficult, but the road team must accomplish several things before they can score the upset. Here’s a closer look…
#1 – Play Keep-Away
As it stands, the Bengals are the middle of the pack – in terms of offensive rankings. They feature several outstanding weapons (even potentially without the services of A.J. Green). The Browns will have their hands full – no matter if Giovanni Bernard is carrying the football or if Andy Dalton is slinging it. However, the Browns’ opponent is near the bottom defensively. Therefore the road team must keep the respectable unit off the field and have their weaker group try to stop the Browns’ offense. Winning the time of possession battle is a good start for the visitors.
#2 – Trust the Coaching Staff
The running attack has fallen on hard times over the past few weeks. However, the Browns’ offensive minds will devise schemes and play calls to force the ball down the throats of opponents. It is definitely easier said than done, but the players (all fifty-three of them) have to be bought in to the system of the coaches. I believe they are; now the execution must follow. Nick McDonald and the pair of guards will get their shot to prove they are gelling and dependable.
#3 – Be Smart on the Short Week
It’s very obvious that playing a Thursday contest after a Sunday matchup does not provide a tremendous amount of recovery time for one’s body. Therefore when in Cincinnati, players might be cautious in scrums or when attempting to make a play based more on adrenaline than on how they actually feel. Last year’s Thursday’s contest saw several key injuries (including Brian Hoyer). If the Browns want to challenge for the postseason, players must ensure that they do not put themselves into situations where their 2014 campaign could end early.
#4 – Break the Trend
Slow starts and falling behind opponents has been a staple of the 2014 Cleveland Browns when playing away contests. They were able to eek out a win in Tennessee, but if they want to get their second victory away from First Energy Stadium they cannot play catchup. While the Browns can score points in bunches, it is not commonplace (and shouldn’t be expected). The Browns have to come out and get a lead, or worst-case scenario, stay in the contest. A victory can be had in a close contest; they just have to get to that point.
#5 – Win the Special Teams Battle
This will likely be a close contest – where the teams could separate is in the area of special teams. The punt and kick units have been solid all year long, the Browns must keep this up in Cincinnati. However, getting some longer returns (especially on punts) could swing the favor towards the orange and brown. I understand it’s a tall order, but the team is due in this area – no matter who is back there.
Conclusion: Busting through trends is becoming a theme of this year’s Cleveland Browns. They have struggled within their division and in contests on the road. Thursday night’s contest is an excellent opportunity to finally break both negative trends; however it will not come easy.