In week one of the NFL‘s opening weekend, the Cleveland Browns just couldn’t pull out the upset against their arch nemesis, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Despite scoring 24 unanswered points in the second half, the Browns’ opener was a game of two halves. This week, Cleveland hosts Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.
Here are three things that must happen in order to grab the season’s first victory and coach Mike Pettine‘s first career victory.
Dawg Bone #1
Fast Start and Quick Pace
The Browns did something in last week’s contest I haven’t seen in a long time from them – a hurry up offense with a sense of urgency. Down 24-3 at the half, the Browns came out and stunned the Steelers with their fast paced offense and downhill running game. Believe it or not, the Saints gave up 568 yards of offense last week, the second highest in franchise history.
Those same yards are there for Cleveland. To get those yards, the orange-and-brown must move quick and efficient.
With their two bruising rookie running backs, Cleveland ran the football hard in the hurry up offense, rushing for 183 yards between all three running backs. With Ben Tate ruled out for the home opener Sunday, both Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell will carry the workload.
Both rookies have a violent downhill running style and can shed blockers. The Browns used the run to set up the play action very well against the Steelers and would be wise to do the same.
It is imperative that the Browns get off to a quick start and score early. Three and out drives against a team like the Saints could make the game ugly very quick. Cleveland needs to use the Falcons’ blueprint they exposed in week one.
Dawg Bone #2
For this key, I went back to the 2010 vault – the last meeting between these two teams.
Against the Saints on the road, Cleveland used two trick plays on special teams (cross field lateral on a punt return and a fake punt run) that swayed the momentum to their side during the course of the game.
However, it was the defense that flustered Brees and the Saints. In the 31-17 victory, the Browns had three sacks and four interceptions.
The defense, full of older veterans, shut out the Saints in two of the four quarters despite giving up almost 400 yards of offense. The Browns put up a measly 210 yards of offense that day and not counting a fake punt run, Cleveland’s running game produced just 57 yards on 27 carries.
Brees has found a new favorite toy in rookie receiver Brandin Cooks. In his first eight pro snaps that count on the first Saints drive of the game, Cooks had three receptions for 48 yards.
I imagine Brees will look to pick apart the slot corner (Justin Gilbert?) that will be covering Cooks. I like Browns safety Tashaun Gipson playing centerfield against Brees for help over the top.
Now, I understand that this is not the same Browns team, but if history proves anything, Cleveland can win this game with stellar defense. To pull this upset off on an older Brees with new younger weapons, the Browns defense must create at least three turnovers. It doesn’t matter if they’re forced fumbles, interceptions, or turnovers on downs, the Browns must take the football away from the Saints to have any fighting chance.
Dawg Bone #3
Counter Attack the Defensive Heat
Once a defensive coordinator of Cleveland, Rob Ryan has found a nice home in New Orleans with the same title. He and head coach Sean Payton work very well together and have built a solid defense, especially in the secondary. Ryan is going to bring the heat against his former team and Cleveland must be ready for it.
How they can neutralize and counter that is by using screens and quick hits to their playmakers. I counted at least 23 missed tackles by the Ryan led Saints defense against the Atlanta Falcons last week. New Orleans also gave up 23 plays that went for 10 yards or more a week ago.
In the first half of last week’s loss to the Steelers, Pittsburgh did just that to the Browns. The Steelers didn’t do anything extraordinary, Ben Roethlisberger just got the ball out quick and let his playmakers do the rest. Matt Ryan and the Falcons did something very similar to the Saints in week one.
If Hoyer stands in the pocket like a statue and holds on to the ball as he did in the first half last week, it will be three-and-outs and Cleveland will be in for a long day, deflating the fired up home crowd.
Ryan Ruiz is the Cleveland Browns Beat Writer for The Inscriber: Digital Magazine. You can follow him on Facebook: Ryan (BrownsWriter) Ruiz and Twitter @ryanpruiz24. Ryan is also a Browns correspondent for The Sportsfix. Tune in every Friday at noon on www.thesportsfix.net. Email Ryan at ryan.ruiz@http://126.96.36.199/~theinscr