It’s the Browns, I can’t look away. Last week Cleveland lost to the Falcons 23-20 and Los Angeles beat the Texans 34-24. This Sunday, the Browns host the Chargers for a 1:00 p.m. game (EST) at FirstEnergy Stadium. For the second time this season, the Browns secondary snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory late in the fourth quarter. This has to stop. The Browns have allowed 50 points in the fourth quarter this year after four games. What am I watching this week?
Browns Offense Vs. Chargers Defense. The Chargers defense is at the bottom of the league in rushing defense. They give up 5.4 yards per carry, second-worst in the NFL. On runs outside the tackles, they give up 7.9 yards per carry, last in the league. They also surrender 27 points per game, which is 30th in the NFL. The Chargers are 15th in red zone defense and are 21st in third down defense. As a team, they have 11 sacks, however, 10 of those sacks came in their two wins. According to Pro Football Focus, the Browns offense is number one in the NFL based on their running game. Cleveland is tied for first with the Giants with explosive runs (25). Those are runs of 10 yards or more divided by number of carries. Los Angeles’ defense has allowed the fifth-most explosive runs. I want the Browns to run the ball and then run it some more. 81% of Chubb’s yardage has come on outside runs. Cleveland is 15th in red zone offense, so when they get in the red zone, I hope they have both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt on the field at the same time. This would create a defensive mismatch. In the passing game, left tackle Jedrick Wills must control linebacker Khalil Mack, who leads the Chargers in sacks with five. The Browns need to get WR Amari Cooper involved early with some quick slants or bubble screens. Cleveland leads the NFL in time of possession with an average of over 35 minutes per game. Keep the Chargers offense on the sidelines.
Browns Defense Vs. Chargers Offense. Los Angeles has the number one passing offense in the NFL averaging 307 yards per game. Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert on deep passing attempts (330) leads the NFL in passing yards and is third in deep passing completion percentage (57.9%). Los Angeles is fourth in the league in explosive pass plays (16). Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams has been Herbert’s favorite target for those deep throws. Their rushing offense is last in the league averaging 64.5 yards per game. The Chargers offensive line has allowed only four sacks, best in the league. The Browns have allowed five. Unfortunately, when blitzed, Herbert only gets better completing about 84% of his passes. It’s sounding like the defensive line will have Myles Garrett, Taven Bryan and possibly Jadeveon Clowney back. This should help in pressuring Herbert and also containing Chargers running back Austin Ekeler. Ekeler is very effective in the passing game, so the Browns’ safeties and linebackers must control and contain. Finally, the Browns must finish. Their defense through the first three quarters is allowing 4.93 yards per play (seventh in the league). In the fourth quarter, they are allowing 7.83 yards per play, last in the league. Defensive coordinator Joe Woods needs to get out of the late game zone and trust his players to play man defense on the corners with a deep safety.
I want to see the Browns control the clock on offense with the run game. In the red zone, slip the tight end through the defense into the endzone like the team did in 2022 and 2021. Score points when the team is in the red zone, whether it’s touchdowns or field goals. On defense, control the line of scrimmage, disguise a few blitzes with the safeties, cover the Chargers tight ends and trust the secondary to play man defense late in the game.