A Few Ways to Win in the South (Again)
Last time was a squeaker, but the Cleveland Browns walked away from the Georgia Dome with a victory. Will they be able to replicate that in Charlotte this Sunday? They will have a different guy under center than in the Falcons contest, hopefully that will be to the Browns advantage. Other than a thing or two offensively – this matchup appears to a be a similar one. In another winnable game, let’s review some things that the Browns can do to seal the deal.
#1 – Slow Down the Running Game
This refers primarily to shutting down veteran Jonathan Stewart, who has had some large games as of late. With the status of Cam Newton unknown, and the possibility of playing Derek Anderson, one would believe the Panthers would employ the hand off as the main play on offense. Preventing Stewart (or any other back) from gaining yardage is a huge factor in giving the Browns a shot to win.
#2 – Keep the Foot on the Accelerator
During the long losing streak for the home team, their offense failed to score over twenty-one points in every game. If the Browns want to pummel the opposition, they must put points on the scoreboard (some points would be nice). Should Manziel and the offense score at least three touchdowns – I like the chances for a victory. I also do not see that as a huge obstacle, so long as they avoid costly mistakes when closing in on the end zone.
#3 – Rely on the Team’s Strength
Trouncing quarterbacks and forcing them into mistakes have been two staples of the Browns’ defense this season. As the saying goes “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” – therefore, the game plan should center on making life miserable for the Panthers’ signal caller. While the offense has had its issues converting turnovers to touchdowns with Brian Hoyer under center, I have confidence this will not be the case with Johnny Manziel.
#4 – Crush their Spirits Early
Both teams are relatively in similar situations, just on the edge of the playoff chase and need a miracle to make it in. However, the Browns have shown a better resolve to adversity than the home squad. Just look at the losing streaks by both teams, the Browns have a three-game losing skid, but the Panthers had a six-game one just a few weeks ago. I believe this lack of resolve will translate in this contest. Score an early touchdown, get stops on defense, and fluster the home team and its fans.
#5 – Look at Minnesota
The Vikings defeated the Panthers handily a few weeks ago, and did so under the leadership of a rookie quarterback. Why can’t the Browns do this as well? Teddy Bridgewater was not asked to do a large part, but excelled during his twenty-one drop backs (including heaving a pair of touchdowns). Granted, the Browns will not return a pair of blocked punts for scores, but I feel they should not have to worry about youth under center. If the Browns want to give Manziel and the offense any advantage though – I would be all for it.
Conclusion: There’s no reason why the Browns cannot come out ahead in this game. The only way I see them losing is from multiple self-inflicted mistakes. I feel this franchise has learned from previous poor away games (Jacksonville and Buffalo) and know how to play fundamentally sound football.