Week 7: Browns vs. Seahawks

It’s been quite the week for the Browns.  They looked bad in a loss to the Raiders, their arguably best player hurt his hamstring, and Mike Holmgren created a fire storm of controversy when he spoke to a Seattle radio station.  Yep, things are going great.  At least the Browns get to play the lowly Seahawks this week in what should be a game that gives them a chance to right the ship.

Or is it?

A lot of people think this is going to be an easy victory for the Browns.  I get it.  The Seahawks aren’t very good on the surface and coming from the NFC West, where the long running stigma is that all of the teams suck, it’s only natural to believe that the Browns will have the upper hand.  Combine that with the long-standing statistic for how bad west coast teams are playing at 1 o’clock on the east coast and it should be checkmate.  I don’t think so.

The Seahawks have been sneaky good so far this year despite what their record might indicate.  They’ve won 2 out of their last 3 games.  The one loss came by only 2 points at the hands of a Falcons team that many believed early on was destined for a date in the Super Bowl.  Their defense ranks among the NFL’s best by giving up the third fewest total yards per game.  They’re also coming off of their bye week and an impressive win of the NFC East leading Giants.  Does that sound like a crappy team to you?  I don’t think so.

Meanwhile, the Browns have been a train wreck in their 2 most recent games.  The offense, for lack of a better term, has looked completely inept.  They haven’t scored points and have been unable to move the ball with any type of consistency.  For the year, they’re only averaging about 3 yards per run and 5 yards per pass.  I’m sorry, but that isn’t going to get it done.

The special teams, which are normally so good, have been susceptible to big plays.  Last week in Oakland they gave up touchdowns on a kickoff return and a fake field goal.  Again… say what you will about the Eric Mangini era, but neither of those plays would ever have happened under his watch.  The return game has also been non-existent.  I know Josh Cribbs has a lot on his plate, but the Browns need him to do something spectacular to help ignite them.

Then there’s the defense.  They looked so good in the first three games of the season, minus a few exceptions here and there.  The past two games on the other hand… well that’s a completely different story.  It’s not to say that they’ve looked bad.  It’s just that they’ve looked oh so mediocre.  We’ve seen what they’re capable of, especially against Indianapolis, but the past two game against Tennessee and Oakland haven’t been the same.  When was the last time anyone heard mention of Jabaal Sheard?  Maybe the absence of Joe Haden has played a part in all of this.  Who am I to say?  All I know is that the defense can play a lot better than they have been of late.

So what do the Browns do to win today?  Well I’m about to tell you.

The 5 Keys to Victory:

1.  Hit a few big plays:  The Browns have yet to really hit on a big play this year.  I’m not sure if it’s a result of the personnel or the play calling, but the Browns need to do something to make everyone say, “wow.”  I said it last week and I’ll say it again this week.  Send Greg Little deep on the first play of the game.  What do the Browns have to lose?  If anything, it let’s Seattle know that they aren’t afraid to go deep and it’s something to keep in mind for the rest of the game.  I know, it’s a crazy thought.  Who would think that doing something to keep the opposing defense on its toes would be a good idea?

2.  Balance the offensive attack:  Here we are again.  I’ve said it each and every week and I’ll say it again.  The Browns need to have a more balanced offensive attack it they stand any chance of winning this game.  They need to mix up the play calling, utilize both of their backs, and set up a play action passing game that might just be able to help the receivers get open down the field.  Now, I’m not sure if Hillis is playing yet and if he isn’t I understand that this is a lot harder a task with only Montario Hardesty in the backfield.  They should still run it about 30 times.  Show some commitment and see if Hardesty is capable of carrying the load.  If they don’t and they allow Colt to throw the ball 50 times it’s going to be a long day.

3.  Make things difficult for Charlie Whitehurst:  The Browns get the fortune, or misfortune of facing Charlie Whitehurst.  It really depends on how you want to look at it.  Whitehurst is a more traditional pocket style passer where as injured starter Tavaris Jackson is a poor man’s Michael Vick.  They’re two totally different styles.  The Browns should be able to get after Whitehurst and put pressure on him in much the same way they did with Kerry Collins earlier in the year.  However, if Haden can’t play, Whitehurst may be able to take advantage of a weakened defensive backfield in ways Jackson may not.  It’s hard to say If facing Whitehurst is a negative or positive, but he’s shown an ability to be rattled and make mistakes.  If the Browns can get in his head, they have a chance.

4.  Keep feeding the ball to Greg Little:  I think it’s fairly safe to say at this point that Greg Little is the Browns best receiver.  He proved it last week in his first start in the NFL.  This week he gets the nod again and I fully expect both him and the Browns to take advantage.  He’s a big body and a mismatch against most NFL corner backs, and the Browns should try and get the ball to him as much as possible, especially if they can get into the red zone.  Then again, with the way the Browns play calling has been this season, they’re just as likely to not throw the ball to him at all.

5.  Forget the past 2 games:  They say that in the NFL you have to have a short memory.  I don’t think that’s always the case.  I think the Browns realize they’ve played like crap the past two games and are out to prove to everyone that they are moving in the right direction.  That’s both good and bad.  It’s good because it keeps them motivated to improve.  It’s bad because at the first sign of trouble thoughts of “here we go again” can creep in.  The Browns need to forget everything that everyone’s been saying about them all week and just go out and play their game.  If they get down early, oh well.  If they commit a turnover, so be it.  They just need to keep pressing forward.  If they can do that, especially Shurmur and McCoy, than I believe the Browns could have a good day today.  If not… things could get ugly once the fans start voicing their displeasure.

So what happens?

At this point in the season I’d like to think I’d have a better idea of what to expect from the Browns on a weekly basis.  The fact of the matter is I don’t think they’re a very good team and as a result you never know exactly what you’re going to see.  They’re going to struggle most weeks, this week included.  The Seahawks were a playoff team last year and have finally started playing like it.  They’ll be able to move the ball and keep the Browns offense at bay.  Much like last week, I think this is going to be another game where it feels like the two teams are a lot further apart than the final score indicates.  I think Colt will look better than he has in weeks, but it won’t be enough.  The final score… Seahawks 24 – Browns 17.

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