By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor
After last Sunday’s 20-10 defeat against the 49ers, the unit was credited for doing plenty to keep the game from turning into a blowout while maintaining the scrappiness that it displayed in the 6-3 win against Seattle in Week 7. Cleveland’s defenders received high marks for the goal-line stand they staged in the second quarter, as well as for allowing only a field goal in the second half after giving up a pair of first-half touchdowns.
But the fact is, the Niners had a great deal of success running the ball. Frank gore ripped through the Browns’ defense for 134 yards on 31 carries. He and Kendall Hunter each had a 26-yard gain.
It was because of their rushing success that the 49ers were able to keep firm control for most of the game. It was because of their rushing success that quarterback Alex Smith had the luxury of mostly just managing the game rather than having to carry the load on his passing arm.
The Browns’ defense might have appreciated the compliments – which were among the few the team received or, frankly, deserved – but fully understands that it can’t have a similar performance against the run in Sunday’s game at Houston.
The Texans’ running game is even better than that of the Niners. The Texans are averaging 142 rushing yards per game and 4.2 yards per carry. They have a pair of highly productive backs in Arian Foster and Ben Tate, each of whom has rushed for more than 500 yards in eight games.
The Browns’ defensive line can’t allow itself to be overpowered the way it was from the very start of the San Francisco game. Much is made about the slow starts by Colt McCoy and the rest of Cleveland’s offense.
But the Browns’ defense also needs to avoid a sluggish beginning. The same impressive effort that the Browns’ defensive line demonstrated in keeping Gore out of the end zone on fourth-and-goal has to be present from Cleveland’s opening series on defense.
The outcome of this game is likely going to have a great deal to do with the performance of the middle of the Browns’ defense — tackles Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin, and middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson.
If the Browns are to have any hope of leaving Houston with a victory, their defense will need to be as physical as they’ve been in any game so far. They will need to swarm to the football as well as they have all season.
And if the Browns’ defense is going to be praised again, it would much prefer that it happens after the win.
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