Browns vs. Bengals – Five Keys for a Home-Cooked Victory
It’s been some time since the Browns swept the season series from the Cincinnati Bengals (2002, if I remember correctly). However, a win on Sunday can accomplish that feat. Since their first meeting, the Browns have lost a few members to injury (Phil Taylor, John Hughes), while the Bengals are getting a few healthy (Gio Bernard, Leon Hall). It will require a tremendous effort to win, but let’s see what the Browns need to do.
#1 – Attempt to Replicate the First Meeting
Last matchup, there was a ball-controlled offense and a turnover machine for a defense of the orange and brown. This was a recipe for success; it is imperative they try to work this magic again. It’s no surprise the run game has struggled mightily in the past few weeks, if that continues then the Browns could be in trouble. Obviously, the zone read will be a part of the offense now, that should help tilt the scales toward the run.
#2 – Keep Your Eyes on their Backfield
Last contest, Jeremy Hill was shut down and then ran his mouth stating “the Browns weren’t that good”. Both sides are going to bring their best efforts in this matchup. I would hope the run defense corral the visitors – but that has been their Achilles thus far. Having Gio Bernard back will make it even more of a difficult task to stop the visitor’s rushing attack. This could be the main key to the entire contest.
#3 – Dare Dalton
In his four-year career, the former TCU quarterback has yet to thrash the Browns (knock on wood) through the air. While he has targeted and hit A.J. Green for a few big plays – the Browns have not given up a 400-yard, four touchdown game by Andy Dalton. If the Browns’ defense can force Cincinnati to be one-dimensional – and that dimension being the pass, this can be a winnable game.
#4 – Keep it Loud One Final Time
Barring something bizarre, this will be the final contest for a while at First Energy Stadium. Therefore, the fans must make the atmosphere electric one last time in 2014. The acoustics have been much improved this season, as has been the home team’s play. Can the crowd force mistakes by Dalton and the opposing offense? That’s what we are rooting for.
#5 – Utilize Gordon Properly
While the wide receiver was not available to play in the first meeting, the offense was good enough to win on the road. Since his return, Josh Gordon has been targeted a fair amount of times – probably too much. The former Baylor star is a playmaker, but the success of the passing game will be reliant on connecting with him as well as finding Andrew Hawkins, Travis Benjamin, and Taylor Gabriel on other opportunities. Leon Hall and Adam Jones will make Hoyer pay if he locks on to Gordon.
Conclusion: I believe the Browns can get it done next week – but they must eliminate all types of silly mistakes. This includes costly turnovers, poor coaching decisions, and missed assignments. If one of those three things occurs, expect Browns’ fans to hang their head one final time after exiting First Energy Stadium. I look forward to seeing what Johnny Manziel can do.