And here we go again. Another week, another chance to waste three hours of my life watching the Browns. Luckily for me I have absolutely nothing better to do so how much can I really complain? Well, I won’t complain, but the Yankee Loving Fiancee can… and she does… and then she makes fun of me. Even still, that doesn’t mean I have to like what I’m watching and over the course of the past 3 games the Browns haven’t made that much of an issue.
This week, the lucky winner of a date with the Cleveland Browns is the San Francisco 49ers. Heading into the year this was looking like a cake walk game given how bad the 49ers have been the past few years and the issues they’ve had trying to turn Alex Smith into a competent quarterback. Of course as luck would have it, the Browns don’t get to take on a 1-5 49er’s team. No, they get a 49ers team that is 5-1 and looks like it might be the best team in the NFC not named the Green Bay Packers.
Like a lot of people I’m not entirely sold on Alex Smith. You just can’t forget about the previous five season in which he was absolutely terrible. Then again, with Jim Harbaugh a the reins it should come as no surprise to anyone just how well Smith has been playing. Harbaugh was a pretty good QB in his own right and did a pretty good job molding Andrew Luck the past few years at Stanford. Plus, Smith has had a lot of turmoil in his time with the 49ers. He’s had more head coaches, offensive coordinators, and offensive schemes than you can count on one hand. How could anyone be expected to succeed under those type of circumstances? Now that he has stability he’s magically turning into the player people thought he could be coming out of Utah.
As for Harbaugh… Damn does that look like a good coaching hire or what? The 49ers came into the year with the same set of circumstances as the Browns, new coach, new systems, questions at QB and other positions, and he’s made them an after thought. How bad does Pat Shurmur look in comparison right now? We can’t throw the ball for more than five yards at a time meanwhile the 49ers look like a serious Super Bowl contender. Plus, there’s no way Shurmur could beat Harbaugh in a fight.
I’ll wait for all of you to regain consciousness after slamming your heads into your keyboards.
Ok, moving on.
The Browns need to show signs of improvement this week. In terms of poor performance there is the U.S. economy and the Cleveland Browns leading the pack right now. Yes, it’s been that bad. The offense has been unwatchable which has led to fans questioning everything from the future of Pat Shurmur beyond this year and Colt McCoy’s status as “the guy” to just how bad the receivers are and whether or not Peyton Hillis deserves a raise. Yep, the NFL season is in full swing for the Cleveland Browns.
Another factor that needs to be taken into account for today’s game is the bye week. The 49ers are coming off of their bye week and if the performance of teams after bye weeks so far this season is any indication, the 49ers might struggle. Teams coming off of the bye week this year have been absolutely terrible. Then again, most of the teams coming off of byes so far have simply been terrible teams. The 49ers aren’t a terrible team, so it’ll be interesting to see if they can avoid the post bye week trap or if the new practice rules affect them too and the Browns can take advantage.
So what do the Browns have to do to win this game against the 49ers? Well, other than hope and pray for a miracle, I have no idea. I don’t even think they know what to do at this point. But, that’s why we’re here… to try and figure this crap out. So…
5 Keys to the Browns beating the 49ers.
1. Stretch the field: This has been the biggest issue with the Browns offense all year long. They haven’t shown any ability to move the ball down field in large chunks. Because they either refuse or are unable to complete a pass beyond 5 yards, the Browns have had to rely on long, drawn out drives in order to score points. The only problem is that once they get into the red zone they aren’t able to punch it into the end zone. One solution to this problem may be the activation of Carlton Mitchell for this weeks game. Mitchell has become somewhat of an urban legend. Supposedly, he’s big, fast, and strong… only he’s never made it onto the field so nobody knows if this is true or not. We’ll find out today. I’m excited. Maybe the receiver we’ve all been crying for has been on the roster all along. Also, for the third week in a row… SEND GREG LITTLE DEEP!
2. Pound the ball with Hardesty: I’m going to assume Peyton Hillis isn’t going to play in today’s game. With that said, Hardesty showed us last week that he can handle a heavy work load and despite his paltry 2.5 yards per carry average, he began hitting the hitting holes with more authority and broke off bigger runs. Maybe this is the week where it all clicks… or maybe this is the week where he blows out his other knee. Who really knows? Regardless, I think the Browns learned last week that at this current point in the season they stand a better chance of winning a game when they run the ball more than they throw it. Sorry, Colt… it’s true.
3. Get after Alex Smith: Like I said earlier, no one believes Alex Smith is a good quarterback. Everyone is waiting for him to implode. It’s coming… you can feel it. The Browns have shown an ability to put pressure on QB’s all year, especially in the Colt’s game. They have to show that kind of effort today. Smith has to run for his life. They need to hit him hard, hit him early, and hit him often. Of course, Smith is helped out a lot by Frank Gore. If Smith starts getting in trouble or is completely ineffective, the 49ers can simply have him hand the ball of to Gore and let him go to work. Must be nice to have talent surrounding the quarterback. Excuse me while I set myself on fire.
4. Protect Colt McCoy: Look, I’ll be the first to admit that Colt McCoy hasn’t played very well at all this season. Part of the problem has been his own short comings and the lack of talented play makers surrounding him. The other, more blatantly obvious problem… the offensive line. How anyone can expect McCoy to be productive or comfortable in the pocket when he’s running for his life every other play is ridiculous. He’s getting about .5 seconds to make a decision after every snap. Even Tom Brady couldn’t work that quickly. I still think Colt has a future in the league and I’m not ready to give up on him yet, but the only way we’re going to find out is if he can stay upright. Injuries on the line have been a big issue, but even still, they’ve had time to mesh and figure this out.
5. Win the special teams battle: Special teams has been a problem the past two weeks for the Browns. Against the Raiders they gave up a fake field goal for a touchdown and a kick off return for a touchdown. Against the Seahawks they gave up a punt return for a touchdown, but thanks to a phantom block to the back it didn’t count. This is very unlike the Browns. For all of their shortcomings over the years in various aspects of a football game, their special teams play has been the one area of strength. That hasn’t been the case this year and they can’t afford to have any mental lapses against the 49ers. If they aren’t on top of their game Ted Ginn Jr. will torch them. I have a bad feeling about this one, I won’t lie.
So what happens?
Well, I have a feeling this one is going to be ugly and not in the same way the Seattle game was. I have a feeling the 49ers are going to take the Browns out back to the wood shed and give them a beating. Let’s face it… the 49ers are good. The Browns… not so much. That’s not to say we won’t see a few positives. I think we’ll see another decent showing from Montario Hardesty as the feature back, I think Greg Little will continue to improve and give us hope that we have a legit wide receiver, and I think Carlton Mitchell will do something that makes all of us say “wow.” I also wouldn’t be surprised to see a better performance out of Colt and better play calling from Shurmur. We’re due for a good performance out of both of them. In the end though, the 49ers just have too many weapons and the Browns won’t be able to keep pace. In the end, I think the 49ers beat the Browns by a score of 31-21.