CLEVELAND – The Cleveland Browns are still in playoff contention, at 7-5, but they must come away with a win against the 8-4 Indianapolis Colts led by Andrew Luck. The Browns’ pass rushers must have one of their best games of the year, or Luck will certainly put together another stellar performance. Luck currently leads the NFL with 4,011 yards through the air. While Peyton Manning is tops among NFL quarterbacks in touchdown passes with 36, Luck is second on the list with 34. Browns’ defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil spoke about Luck and the Colt’s offense earlier this week.
“He’s hot right now. He’s got a lot of weapons around him. They can run the football. …He’s very familiar with the offensive coordinator. They’ve been together since college, so he’s much further along in that offensive scheme than what probably just a third-year player would be in the NFL. …They’ve got more guys running free down the field than any offense I’ve ever seen on film. It’s amazing. It’s like three or four times a game they’ve got a guy wide open. … We’ve got to do a good job of making sure that doesn’t happen to us.”
Thankfully Joe Haden is playing outstanding football this season, as is the entire Browns’ secondary. O’Neil spoke about Haden’s outstanding play,
“… He’s definitely found his groove. Ii think he’s the best corner in football. …We’re going to need him to continue to play at that level to win some football games. This last quarter of the season.”
In addition to facing one of the better quarterback in the NFL in Luck, the Browns will be competing against a familiar face in former Brown Trent Richardson. O’Neil gave Richardson nothing but praise when asked about his scouting report on the running back.
“He runs hard, good back, will get downhill. You better bring it when you tackle him. He’s got ball skills out of the backfield. He’s a complete running back. I’m expecting them to try and get him going a little bit this week knowing that he’s coming back to Cleveland.”
Richardson is looking forward to playing his former team and has stated that he is going to jump into the “Dawg Pound” if he is fortunate enough to score a touchdown. Richardson also told reporters,
“I don’t want to say it’s a revenge game, but it’s going to be a lot of emotion put in this game.”
With that said, Richardson has had to share the spotlight in recent weeks as Daniel “Boom” Herron rushed for 88 yards on eight carries against the Washington Redskins. The Browns’ run defense is rated 29th in the entire NFL but if Karlos Dansby is able to suit up, that will certainly provide a boost for the team. O’Neil said of Dansby’s potential return,
“It would be huge. It was awesome to see him out on the practice field yesterday. We have two leaders on defense and he’s one of them.”
The Browns will also be relying on embattled quarterback Brian Hoyer who was chosen to lead the team against the Colts. Despite being benched in favor of Johnny Manziel last week, the Browns’ coaching staff determined that Hoyer gives the Browns the best chance to win this week. Browns’ offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan spoke about why he believes Hoyer will bounce back.
“…Brian has shown everybody that he can play. He hasn’t had the best games the last few weeks, but it also hasn’t been all on him. We haven’t played good around him. I don’t think we’ve coached our best. I think we’ve all got to step up our game including himself, and if we do that, then that gives us a chance to win.”
Hoyer isn’t the only player on the team with a damaged psyche. Running back Terrance West had a critical fumble last week against the Buffalo Bills, which turned the tide of the game according to Browns’ coaches. West has put together a good week of practice but it is clear Browns’ head coach Mike Pettine is down on him and entertaining other options. Pettine spoke about the possibility of West being inactive for Sunday’s game.
“There’s a chance [he’ll be inactive]. He had a good week though. He did have a good week. He took ownership of it. I think he realized the impact of that play and you could tell. He was very accountable for it.”
The Browns will again have to deal with an injury along the interior offensive line as Nick McDonald was hurt last week and replaced by Ryan Seymour. McDonald and Seymour both got reps this week during practice, but the Browns apparently feel confident with either player at center. Pettine spoke about Seymour’s performance in relief of McDonald against the Bills.
“He was doing a good job. That’s something where you don’t want to bounce back and forth so even though we made the move, we just wanted it to be a one-time thing as long as he was doing okay.”
The Browns have a tremendous amount of adversity to overcome as an NFL season is often referred to as a war of attrition. However, the team is in great spirits as they are in the playoff hunt in the month of December for the first time since 2007. Pettine stated that he senses the excitement in the locker room.
“I can feel it. We talk about it in the meeting, just having that sense of urgency. I put a calendar up just to kind of give them a visual of what’s left.”
The Browns have endured injuries, inconsistent play at the quarterback position, an anemic run game and porous run defense to achieve a respectable 7-5 record. Leaders such as Donte Whitner and Karlos Dansby (if active) will not allow the Browns to go down without a fight; but ultimately the Colts will likely prove to have too much firepower on offense for the Browns to con
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