Last MInute News, Rumors etc.:
TBD. Keep an eye on themdeical status of their CB (Haden) and our WR (Smoke Brown).
Setting the Stage:
The 2 & 5 Browns (who beat the Titans and Ravens but lost to the Jets, Raidiz, Chargers, Broncoos and StL) got squashed by the Rams last week 24 - 6. QB Johnny "Football" Manziel made news the hard way by being involved in a domestic dispute. (Note - Browns GM says the team can't suspend Manziel. Meanwhile, Daryl Washington - who also was involved in a domestic abuse case - hasn't played in over a year). Cards beat the Ravens Monday Night and looked good for three quarters and most of the fourth, but nearly blew a game that looked "in the bag."
Opponent's Last Game
Niners opened up an early lead and hung on to beat the Ravens 25 - 20. Statistically, the two teams were practically the mirror image of one-another with one exception: Flacco's 2 interceptions (vs. none by Kaepernick). Other than that, the two teams matched up pretty even in every department. But this game was a textbook example of why statistics don't always tell the entire story. From what we hear, hidden in the numbers were (1) two dropped TD passes by Steve Smith Sr., (2) two interceptions dropped, (3) a botched holding call on J Smith...(4) a missed roughness flag on Boldin and (5) the sinkhole that "tried to eat" Justin Tucker (causing him to miss a 45-yard FG)...Ravens are now 1 & 5. According to veteran Ravens beat-writer, Clifton Brown “In the three years I’ve been covering the Ravens, this is the quietest locker room I’d ever been in.”
Rams received and returned the the KO (on a lateral play) to their own 33...They were held to 3 & out...Return (net penalty) gave Cleve the ball on their own 8. On the third play of the series, McCown hit Gabriel in the flat, but he fumbled and McLeod picked it up and rambled in for a 20-yard TD. Rams 7 - Browns 0.
TB on the Ko. Three of the first four plays were handoffs to D Johnson. On the fifth play of the series (3rd & 8 at the Browbn 32),McCown was sacked for minus-8 yards & fumbled. Ball was recovered by Ayers at the Cleveland 35...After 2 running plays and an incompletion failed to net a first down, StL settled for a 39-yard Zuerlein FG. Rams 10 - Browns 0.
TB on the KO. McCown put together a 14 play drive that carried over into the the next quarter.
First Quarter Score: Rams 10 - Browns 0.
On a 3rd & 2 at the Ram 7, McCown was sacked and Cleve settled for a 25-yard Coons FG. Rams 10 - Browns 3.
Rest of the quarter was a defensive/field position tug of war. KO was returned to the Ram 22. A couple of doses of Gurley and a couple of passes wound up with StL punting from their own forty. Punt was downed at the Brown 4. Cleveland went 3 & out and punted from their own 11. Punt was returned to the Ram 49. Rams went 3 & out. Punt was fair caught at the Brown 9. A couple of false starts contributed to another 3 & out and Cleveland punted from their own 12. Punt was returned to the Ram 41. On the 6th play of the Ram possession, Whitner hit Cook and forced a fumble. Recovered by Cleve at its own 16. They managed to reach the Ram 43 where Lee finally had to punt. Fsair caught at the Ram 12. Only 0:58 left till halftime. StL managed to move to their own 45 (set up by gains of +24 and +7 by Gurley) but had to punt with 0:04 left. Halftime over.
First Half Score: Rams 10 - Browns 3.
Browns received, TB on the KO. After a completion for +27 yards and a 22 yard run off rigfht tackle by Turbin, the Browns eventually reached the Ram 26 here they settled for a 44-yard Coons FG. Rams 10 - Browns 6.
TB on the KO. A 48 yard run off left tackle by Gurley helped move the ball as deep as the Cleveland 8, but a sack by Starks stalled the Ram drive at the Cleveland 17. Zuerlein's 35-yard FG attempt was wide right. Browns took over at their own 25. A 28-yard completion to Barnidge moved the Browns out to their own 42, but a couple of holding penalties kept Cleve penned up on their own side of the midfield line and they had to punt. Fair catch at the Ram 12. A 41-yard deep pass to Britt set up a one-yard Gurley TD. Rams 17 - Browns 6.
TB on the KO. Cleveland reached their own 36 as the quarter ended.
Third Quarter Score: Rams 17 - Browns 6.
On the first play of the quarter, Cleveland punted from their own 47. Touchback. Rams held to 3 & out. Punt returned to the Cleveland 21, On the third play from scrimmage, Benjamin caught a pass for 20-yards but fuumbled. Recovered by StL. Ram ball at their own 44. A 21-yard ramble around RE by Austin helped set up a 16 yard TD run around RE by Gurley. Rams 24 - Browns 6.
8:11 left. KO returned to the Cleveland 13. The Browns reached the Ram 37 in 7 plays but McCown was sacked on the 8th. Rams recovered. Rams ball on their own 33 with 5:17 left. Rams (partly due to a rare offensive face-mask flag called on Austin) went 3 & out. 3:26 left. Cleveland reached the Ram 38 in 5 plays before surrendering on downs. Foles took 2 knees.
Final Score: Rams 24 - Browns 6.
Browns vs.Rams Significant Game Stats
McCown was 26 of 32 for 270 yards, 0 TD's and 0 interceptions.
Browns gained 82 rushing yards (3.4 ypc). 26 of those yards were by McCown and Manziel. Turbin was the leading Cleve RB with 30 yards on 5 carries followed by D Johnson (17 yards on 6 carries). Meanwhile they had a hard time stopping Gurley and other Ram runners, surrendering 158 net rushing yards (6.1 ypc).
Leading Brown receivers were Barnidge (6 for 101 yards ) and D Johnson (7 catches for 73 yards).
Cleve Run/Pass Ratio was 24 run/37 pass.
Browns were minus-3 in takeaways, losing 4 fumbles and no interceptions.
Browns held Gurley to 9 yards on his first 5 carries and StL to 44 ground yards by halftime, but wore down in the second half. Gurley wound up gaining 122 yards including 2 Td's and a couple of chunk-runs.
Average Cleve YPC by Quarter: (1) 3.7; (2) 5.6; (3) 6.8; (4) 4.6.
Poyer led the Browns with 10 tackles followed by Dansby (7) and Kirksey (7).
Cleveland pass rushers netted 2 sacks. (Bryant and Starks). Brown QB's were sacked 4 times.
Net punting yards (Lee with 38.4) were 10 yards less than the Rams (Hekker with 48.0).
Festival of Penalties - Browns were penalized 11 times for 98 yards. (Rams were flagged 9 times for 75 yards).
Neither team was all that sharp in 3rd down efficiency - Browns were 3 for 12 (25%). Rams were 1 for 9 (11%).
Browns were 0 for 1 in red zone efficiency. (Rams were 2 for 3).
Time of Possession: Browns: 35:33 / Rams: 24:27)
Browns Cumulative Season Stats
(Note - May be a game or so "old")
First Downs: Ravens 133- Opponents 140.
3rd Down Conversions: Browns 45 of 102 - Opponents 33 of 95
4th Down Conversions: Browns 2 of 6 - Opponents 3 of 4
Total Yards Offense: Browns 2,549 - Opponents 2,752
Rushing Yards: Browns 633 (3.6 ypc )- Opponents 1,057 (5.1 ypc). Crowell leads the team with 281 yards on 81 carries (3.5 ypa). Right behind him is Duke Johnsopn with 176 yards on 55 carries (3.2 ypa)
Rush/Pass Ratio: Browns 175/264
Passing - McCown completed 66.8% of his passes and gained 1,605 yards and is credited with 8 TD's and 3 interceptions. He was sacked 21 times. He has an 96.1 QB Rating.
Receiving - Benjamin leads the Browns with 35 catches (575 yards - 16.4 ypc). Next two leading receivers are a TE (Barnidge) and RB (Duke Johnson). Barnidge (5 TD's) and Johnson (4 TD's) are the two Cleveland touchdown generators.
Turnover Ratio: minus-6
Tackles - Dansby leads the Browns with 54 followed by Whitner (51) and Kirksey (37). There are 5 other defenders with tackler in the 20's..
Sacks - Browns have a sack deficit - they've surrendered 26 sacks but only nailed opposing QB's 12 times. A Bryant leads the Browns with 3.5.sacks followed by Hughes III with 1.5. The rest of the sack totals equal one sack or a shared sack.
Interceptions: Total of 4. Dansby has 2; Gipson and Mingo one apiece. T
Time of Possession:Brows 32:20 - Opponents 30:18
Field Goals: - Coons is 14 for 14 (all inside the fifty).
Punting: Lee's aversging 58.8 ypp (3 yards more than opposing punters. 16 of his 33 punts were either touchbacks or inside the twenty.
Punt Returns: Cleve averages 13.4 ypr (vs. 7.2 for opponents). Benjamin handles all punt return duties.
Kick Returns: Gilbert and Draughn (no longer on the active roster) split KR duties. Gilbert is averaging 28.9 ypr (vs. 22.4 ypr for opposing returners).
WR1...83 Hartline......18 Gabriel.......15 Moore
LT.......73 J Thomas
RG....77 Greco.........74 Erving
RT.....72 Schwartz....67 Pasztor
TE.....82 Barnidge....81 Dray.............88 Bibbs.......84 Housler
WR2.11 Benjamin...80 Bowe...........16 Hawkins
QB....13 McCown...02 Manziel.........07 Davis
RB....34 Crowell......29 D Johnson...27 Turbin
FB....42 M Johnson
DE 93 Campbell..........90 Redding
NT 95 Gunter...............69 X Williams
DT 92 Rucker..............73 Mauro........72 Stinson
SLB 52 Woodley.......... 44 Golden
ILB 55 Weatherspoon.
ILB 51 Minter...............59 Fua
WLB 54 Freeney.............96 Martin.......56 Riddick........57 Okafor (inj)
LCB 21 Peterson
RCB 25 Powers.............28 Bethel...35 C Brooks
SS 36 Bucannon.........22 Jefferson
FS 32 Mathieu............26 R. Johnson.....
Matchup: Brown Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
Manziel is medically cleared to play, but the CW says it will be former Cardinal McCown. Cardinal defense will have to prepare for two contrasting styles: McCown is a smart pocket guy. The less experienced Manziel can be rattled, but is known for extending plays long enough for his receivers to get open. O-line is allowing defenders to beat up on McCown, nd he may be wearing down. McCown had his shoulder MRI'd but still expects to start Sunday.
Powers is out indefinitely. Bethel gets a chance to show everyone what he can do in a starting CB role.
Browns are not one of those multi-headed offensive threats the Cards are used to playing against in their division. Top receivers are one wide receiver (Benjamin), a TE (Barnidge) and a RB (Duke Johnson). Cardinal defenders should face less of a challenge than usual bottling up these three Brown receivers while still keeping pressure on McCown or Manziel
Key Matchups: Peterson vs. Benjamin. Bethel vs. Bowe. Jefferson vs. Barnidge. Mathieu vs. Manziel. Okafor/Golden vs. D. Johnson (passes on the perimeter).
Matchup: Brown Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
Brown ball carriers are averaging 3.6 ypc (Their opponents' runners are averaging 5.1). Cardinal run defenders are bottling up enemy runners somewhere in the low 3.2' or 3's.
Key Matchups: Minter or Okeafor vs. D Johnson.
WR1 11 Fitzgerald..13 Jar Brown......10 Golden
LT 68 Veldheer....79 Sowell
LG 76 Iupati.........62 Larsen
C 63 Sendlein....53 Shipley
RG 61 Cooper
RT 70 Massie.......78 Watford.........74 Humphreys
TE 85 Fells...........87 Niklas
WR2 15 M. Floyd.....12 John Brown...14 Nelson
QB 03 Palmer........05 Stanton.........09 Barkley
RB 38 Ellington.....27 C Johnson.....31 D Johnson.....30 Taylor,
TE 84 Gresham
RDE....94 Starks........93 Hughes III
NT.......71 Shelton......98 Meder
LDE.....92 D Bryant....96 Cooper
OLB....99 Kruger........44 Orchard
MLB...56 Dansby.......59 Carder
WLB...58 Kirksey.......50 DiManche.....53 Robertson
OLB....51 Mingo........95 A Bryant
RCB...22 T Williams..36 K Williams....24 Bademosi
LCB...23 Haden........26 Desir.............21 Gilbert
FS ....39 Gipson........35 D Jones.......33 Poyer (inj)
SS.....31 Whitner.......30 Campbell
Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Brown Pass Defense
Palmer has been efficient 85% of the time but occasionally will do something goofy that will result in an interception or blown opportunity. While Cardinal pass blocking has kept him relatively clean, his footwork does tend to get a bit funky (& his accuracy less-than-pinpoint) when pressure forces him to hurry his throws or has to delay throws (& face pressure) when his receivers are covered.
Cleveland has had problems putting pressure on the passer. Although their secondary includes such standouts as Haden and Whitner, their cover guys have been under seige all season (probably due to the lack of a pass rush).
Cards have a plethora of receiving options (including Fitz, Floyd and Smokey Brown, their RB's and the emergence of TE Jeremy Gresham.
Haden's medical status is uncertain as is Smokey (hamstring).
Key Matchups: Cardinal OL vs. Bryant, Starks and Orchard. Fitz vs. Haden. Flyod vs. T Williams. Gresham vs. Whitner. Cardinal RB's vs. Dansby and Kirksey.
Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs. Brown Run Defense
Browns' average ground yards-per-carry- allowed tends to start out OK in most games but then disintegrate with each succeeding quarter.
Look for BA to "take what the defense gives him" but - all things being equal - dial up a lot of running plays in order to (a) wear down the Cleveland defense and (b) reduce the likelihood that Palmer will have to absorb too many shots.
Key Matchups: Veldheer and Iupati vs.Starks and Shelton. C Johnson vs, Dansby and Whitner.
P 08 Lee
K 06 Coons
H 08 Lee
LS 47 Hughlett
KR 21 Gilbert
PR 11 Benjamin
K 07 Catanzaro
P 02 Butler
H 02 Butler
LS 82 Leach
KR 31 D Johnson.....10 Golden
PR 21 Peterson........14 Nelson...........10 Golden
Matchup: Brown Special Teams vs. Cardinal Special Teams
Brown special teams have consistently been more productive than their opponents. Coons has a 100% FG percentage. Brown returners have outgained opposing return men. Lee is averaging 3 yards a punt longer than opposing punters. Gilbert and Benjamin are posting solid kickoff and return numbers.
Catanzaro has missed two XP attempts in recent games. He has been booting KO's deep into the end zone, howeve. Cardinal returners (Peterson and D Johnson) are solid, but haven't turned many heads recently. Bethel continues to be a terror on coverage teams.
Key matchups: Bethel vs. Gilbert and Benjamin. Bethel and Campbell vs. Coons.
Cleve: HC Mike Pettine. DC: Jim O Neil. OC: John DeFilppo. ST: Chris Tabor. Harbaugh is one of the most highly respected coaches in the NFL. Trestman is a former Card OC and former HC of the Bears. Mornhinweg is QB coach.
AZ: Bruce Arians is HC. James Bettcher DC. Harold Goodwin OC and Amos Jones ST coordinator. Tom Moore is assistant HC. Brentson Buckner coaches the D-line and Larry Foote inside LB's.
It's been a tough year for the Browns thus far. Question of the hour: Do they continue to scrap and claw? Or do they start to play like zombies? Cards will want to get rid of the bitter taste in their mouths from almost blowing Monday's game vs. Baltimore.
Another road trip followed by a Bye. (Don't start your vacation early, folks). Cards have a truncated workweek. Enjoying a 6 & 2 record during bye week is a lot more fun than settling for 5 & 3. Browns figure to be fighting like hell to reach .500 sooner than later. Mantra coming out of Cardinal Hq after the Ravens game is that "it's easier to remedy weaknesses coming off a win than it is coming off a loss." Sounds good/we'll see.