Browns’ key: Shut down the run and force Titans to throw

Posted by Vic Carucci on October 1, 2011 – 2:10 am

By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor

Here are some final Browns thoughts entering Sunday’s game against the Titans:

–They have an enormously tough challenge Sunday against the Titans. Although there is plenty to be said for having momentum, and a two-game win streak provides a fairly decent amount of it, each game tends to be a separate entity.

–The Titans are better than any of the Browns’ previous three opponents. They easily have the strongest defense of the teams the Browns have faced so far. Matt Hasselbeck is the best quarterback of the ones they’ve faced so far. He is looking every bit like the man who helped lead Mike Holmgren’s Seattle Seahawks to the Super Bowl. He is playing like someone who is doing everything he can to tell the Seahawks, “You made a HUGE mistake getting rid of me!”

–It scares that that Chris Johnson hasn’t been Chris Johnson for the past three weeks. You know he has a breakout game coming. The Browns certainly do, and their young defensive front figures to be focused to do everything it can to prevent that from happening.

–Watching Johnson on videotape, you don’t see any less of a player that the one who quickly established himself as one of the greatest backs the NFL has ever seen. You see Johnson’s typical explosiveness and staggering open-field speed on occasions, just not as often as he showed it on the way to landing a massive contract during training camp. You see an excellent offensive line that is built to block well for the run.

–As well as Hasselbeck has performed through his career revival, it would seem to make perfect sense for the Browns to try and force him to win the game with his arm. Yes, he has thrown for more than 300 yards the past two weeks, but he also is 0-1 on the road this season, with the Titans’ season-opening loss at Jacksonville. It’s possible he could feel a little less comfort Sunday, especially from what should be an extremely loud and electric Cleveland Browns Stadium. Hasselbeck also will be without his best receiver, Kenny Britt, whose season-ending knee injury is a serious blow to the Titans’ passing game.

–The Browns’ defense has been, as Browns Radio Network analyst Doug Dieken said during our roundtable portion of “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford,” “very efficient in their tackling.” That will be particularly important Sunday. When a defender has a shot to bring Johnson to the ground, he must do it immediately. With this guy, the second chance usually doesn’t come until many yards down the field – if it comes at all.

–Despite the Titans’ stout defensive front, the Browns should have a better chance of succeeding with the likelihood of a more prominent contribution from Montario Hardesty. The best way to deal with Tennessee’s front four is to force to go sideways, something Hardesty is more than capable of doing, while also dealing with Peyton Hillis’ straight-ahead power.

–Something tells me Hillis is going to have a little bit of extra motivation just to remind everyone that he’s still very much the Browns’ primary running back and that his absence last week due to a strep throat shouldn’t have caused him to be forgotten for even a split second.

–Some media and fans have wondered about why tight end Evan Moore has been less noticeable in the offense. During Friday’s roundtable segment on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford,” Tom Withers of the Associated Press called it the “great Evan Moore” mystery. My understanding of how the Browns’ passing game operates is that no single receiver stands out. That has been the history of the passing game with which Pat Shurmur has been involved throughout his NFL coaching career in Philadelphia and St. Louis. That doesn’t mean Moore isn’t destined for any standout performances. It just means that there will likely be other stretches like this.

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