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The Browns look to put last week’s loss in the rearview as they take on the Rams

The Cleveland Browns got run off the field this past Sunday, by the Denver Broncos with a final score being 29-12. Cleveland not only lost this game but lost a lot of important players during the game due to injury. Losses include quarterback Dorian Thompson Robinson (DTR), cornerback Martin Emerson, star rusher Myles Garrett, and wide receiver Amari Cooper.

Denver players were hitting hard and flying around, and at the top of the list of hard hits was Broncos linebacker Baron Browning, who had a high hit on quarterback DTR, which resulted in a roughing the passer penalty, and caused DTR to exit the game with a concussion. As DTR left the field with a towel on his head, he took with him any chances the Browns had of winning the game.

After a slow start for the team offensively, DTR and the Browns offense went on three scoring drives, which included two field goals and a touchdown to Harrison Bryant. DTR had looked the best he had looked in a Browns Uniform, and finally showed shades of a man Browns fans watched in August, when they thought they had found a hidden gem, and a legit starting quarterback in the NFL. When DTR left the field, he took not only the Browns’ chances of winning the game but took the momentum of the offense with him.

When PJ Walker came into the game, the offense fell apart. Over the next 5 drives led by  Walker, the Browns scored 0 points, had 1 fumble, and averaged just 12 yards a drive. The offense began to unravel, and so did the game, and the Denver Broncos won by 3 scores late Sunday evening. The Browns have no time to mope around and reflect on this game, as they will stay on the West Coast this week, to play a feisty Los Angeles Rams team, who has their eyes on the last spot, in the NFC Playoff Picture.

The Rams’ season can be best described as a weird one. They are sitting below .500, are at 5-6, and are oddly outdoing the media and “experts” expectations of them going into the season. The Rams are a long way away from their 2021 season form, a season that saw them lift the Lombardi trophy after beating the Cincinnati Bengals on their home field in SOFI Stadium,  but is very far away from what many people in the media and around the league projected them to be, which was one of the “worst teams in football.”

Despite the Rams’ 5-6 record, they are showing on the field that they are trying to make a playoff push, as they are fresh off a dominating win in Arizona. As they beat the Cardinals with a final score of 37-14 and look to build momentum going into the last 6 weeks of the season, with their eyes on the 7th seed in the wide-open NFC wild-card picture.

The Rams’ record is incredibly fascinating, and a couple of the most fascinating stats define their season. The Rams are 4-1 to divisional opponents, and that record alone, would paint a picture that they are one of the best teams in football, however, the Rams are 1-5 against non-divisional opponents this year. The Rams have points they need to prove, and with just 1 divisional game left, they will have to beat some out-of-division opponents if they want to have a chance of entering the playoff bracket and winning the Lombardi trophy.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Rams as a unit are playing better than fans expected, after fans saw them lose linebacker Leonard Floyd, Future Hall of Fame linebacker Bobby Wagner, and All-pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey, they expected the worst. The Rams’ defense is not great but is not a poor one by any means. They are in the top half of the league in average passing yards allowed per game with 217.9 (14th) and have given up just 11 passing touchdowns on the season, tied for second fewest. The Rams give up 21.3 points per game, and are fresh off of a Cardinals game,  which saw them limit Arizona to just 14 points with Pro Bowl quarterback Kyler Murray and forced the Cardinals to go 6-17 on third down. This Rams defense has had some good moments and has proven to be able to handle themselves despite their major losses this offseason.

On the offensive side of the ball, their offense has not been what it was when they brought in Matthew Stafford two years ago when they were one of the most high-powered offenses in football. Stafford is not having the year he would like, as he ranks 3rd worst among starting quarterbacks in the league in completion percentage (60.8), has the 8th most interceptions out of all quarterbacks (9), and is in the bottom half of the league in QB rating (84.8), and has a similar rating to guys like Taylor Heinicke (84.2) Desmond Ridder (82.4) and Josh Dobbs (81.2), who are career backup quarterbacks.

Stafford’s’ poor passing stats have been reflected in this offense output, as the Rams are in the bottom half of the NFL in points per game (21.1), are 17th in total yards per game (340.6), and for the majority of the year, the unit has been inconsistent. Though this Rams offense is extremely talented with weapons and has some popular faces and some hidden gems they have found this year. You cannot forget about 2021 Triple Crown Winner Cooper Kupp, who just two years ago had one of the best seasons anyone has ever seen from a receiver when he was Offensive Player of the Year, Super Bowl MVP, and led the entire league in receptions, receiving touchdowns, and receiving yards.

Kupp is a great piece for them but is not having the year he would like on the stat sheet, as Kupp has played just 7 games this season, has put up just 393 total receiving yards, is averaging just 56 yards per game, and has just 1 receiving touchdown. Kupp is in an unfamiliar situation this season, as he is not the best receiver on his team this year, that title belongs to their 5th-round rookie wide receiver Puca Nacua, who is 8th in the entire league in receiving yards with 924 yards, 10th in receptions with 73, and through the first two weeks of the season, had the most receptions and receiving yards, by any player through their first 4 games in NFL History. Nacua has taken the league by storm and has been a gem in this Rams offense.

The Rams also have a hidden gem they found in the 5th round of last year’s draft and is one of the best players in their offense, that player is the second-year running back out of Notre Dame, Kyren Willimas, who despite missing 4 games, is 18th in the entire league in rushing yards with 599 yards, averages the most rushing yards per carry out of any of the top 20 rushers in the NFL with 5.3 yards per carry, and averages the second most yards per game in the entire NFL with 85.6 yards per game. Kupp along with these two young pieces are gems in this offense and have been pieces that opponents have kept their eyes on all season.

So, this Rams team as of now is an average team with some impressive offensive talent, that has a lot to show to the league still if they want to be taken seriously. Though the Rams are playing this Browns team at a great time, and this current Browns team faces similar issues the Rams have themselves, a team with loads of talent, and some underperforming units, and is a team that is looking for improvement, on both sides of the ball.

The Browns offense this week will be faced with some familiarity with their signal caller, but unfamiliar with the jersey he is in. In a future Browns fans would have never expected, the Cleveland Browns will be starting quarterback Joe Flacco, as they have ruled out Dorian Thompson Robinson with a concussion on Sunday. Joe Flacco was signed off of Free Agency two weeks ago, after the devastating news of Deshaun Watsons’ shoulder injury on November 15th, which will put him out for the year, and signed Flacco as an insurance policy for the quarterback position if the DTR and Walker experiment didn’t work out. Well, with starter DTR being ruled out with injury, and the PJ Walker experience coming to an end, the Browns will rely on Flacco to get a big road victory for them on Sunday.

Browns fans are very familiar with Joe Flacco, as he tormented the Browns on the incredible Ravens teams, he was on during his tenure. Flacco was 17-3 vs the Browns over his ten years with the Ravens and had lost just 1 time over the 11 games he had played in Browns stadium. So, it is safe to say Flacco is now in an environment he is used to winning in, though this time however he will be assigned the task of winning for his former foe and getting a win in SOFI stadium. Flacco is a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, and in his best season threw 27 touchdowns, and nearly 4,000 yards, this year, however, was almost 10 years ago. Flacco’s best years are behind him, as in his handful of starts he had with the Jets last year, he threw for 5 touchdowns, 3 ints, and had just a 36.1 QBR. Though fans are clinging onto the hope he can look as good as he did in Browns Stadium just a year ago, and where he had the majority of his success last year, that is when he threw for 307 yards, and 4 touchdowns, and ironically beat his now current team with a score of 31-30, when he and the jets were down 13 with a 1:47 remaining.

No one knows how this offense will look on Sunday, and the only shred of confidence Browns fans have on Sunday is the resume he had built with the Ravens over his tenure and a quote from Amari Cooper this past week that Flacco’s passes are “poetry in motion.” Browns will have to continue to lean on their run game, which is averaging the 3rd most rushing yards per game in the entire league with 139.5 and hope to see Jerome Ford continue his game from last Sunday’s game, where he averaged an impressive 7.2 yards per carry. Browns formula will be the same as it has been all year, lean on their defense and hope for any kind of productivity out of their offense. However, this Browns organization and fans have to have a difficult conversation about a unit they have relied on all year, which is their defense.

If the Browns want to win on Sunday, they will have to address an uncomfortable conversation they don’t want to have about their defense, and that is the night and day difference of the unit when it’s a home game vs an away game. Browns at home this year, have been nothing short of not only the best defense in the league, but one of the better defenses NFL fans have seen in recent memory, the Browns’ defense at home is giving up on average just 10.1 points a game, the best in the league by 5 points, the defense also gives up just 175 total yards per game on average, which would also be the best in the NFL by 72 yards, and 83.5 yards of passing, which is the best in the NFL by 58.5 yards.

However, away games have been a different story, in away games this year, the browns give up on average 29.6 points per game, which would put them at the worst defense in football in allowed points per game. This defense allows on average an abysmal 334.6 total yards per game (bottom half in the league) and gives up an average of 122.4 rushing yards during away games (would put them at a top 10 worst rushing defense in the NFL). To add injury to insult, Over the past 3 weeks, opposing offenses are averaging 5.6 yards per attempt, the 3rd most in the NFL.

This is a problem, and Jim Schwartz and this defense have to find a way to stop the bleeding and figure out a better game script to play better as a unit, and especially stop the run. Cause they are about to play against a running back, Kyren Williams, who over his past two games, has rushed for over 140 yards, has the highest percentage of yards after contact past the line of scrimmage, and is one of the most efficient running backs in football. So, the Browns defense has to step it up on Sunday and slow down a handful of talent they will have to face. The team will have to tap into the defense fans and the team are used to watching, during home games, and will be asked to play a big role to secure the win on Sunday.

So, the Browns and the Rams will both be looking to increase their playoff chances and have their eyes on a playoff spot going into the home stretch of the year. The Browns will look to advance their record to 8-4 on the season, and hopefully jump the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North standings in the event of a loss to the Cardinals. The Rams will be looking to improve to 6-6 on the season, and in the event of a loss from the Packers and Vikings, secure the 7th seed in the NFC playoff picture.


1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Shirley

    December 3, 2023 at 12:19 pm

    Great article Ben. Go give them a pep talk.

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