Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Browns vs. Falcons – Week 5

The Browns look to start a winning streak when they host the Falcons in Week 5. Jake Delhomme may be back under center; Peyton Hillis may have a bad wheel and who knows what the team will get from its wide receivers.

The Opposition

Atlanta’s record: 3-1
Offensive rank: 5th overall/10th passing/3rd rushing
Defensive rank: 11th overall/19th passing/11th rushing
All-time record: Cleveland leads 10-2 (5-1 at home)
The line: Browns (+3)

What to Watch For

The Browns continued their upward trend last week and finally walked away from a game with something to show for it – their first win of the season. This is Week 3 of what was believed, in preseason, to be the “killer” portion of their schedule.

But four weeks into the season its time to start adjusting expectations about both the Browns and the Falcons. While their records are flipped, the Browns have been playing better and showing improvement from week to week. The Falcons, on the other hand, are a very soft 3-1, with two of their wins coming from the other teams’ mistakes and the other one coming against the Derek Anderson-led Arizona Cardinals.

So while this is a more winnable game for the Browns that it originally appeared, it certainly won’t be easy, because the Falcons do have talent and doing things the easy way isn’t the Cleveland way.

It will be interesting to see how Rob Ryan handles the defense this week. The Browns have not been able to get any pass rush this year unless they blitz, and when they blitz they still can’t get to the quarterback consistently. Plus the blitzing puts the secondary in a tough spot and they have struggled at times this year.

They double-covered Chad Ochocinco last week and Terrell Owens had a monster day; the Browns won so it worked out, but we’re not sure how many weeks they can pull that one off. It seems likely they will try the same strategy today against Roddy White (32 catches on the season) since the Falcons don’t have a complimentary wide receiver like Owens.

However, with Tony Gonzalez still one of the top tight ends in the league, if the Browns bring a safety on a blitz and Atlanta picks it up, Gonzalez could have an Owens-like day.

Offensively, the Browns may get Jake Delhomme back at quarterback. That’s a plus – not that Seneca Wallace did all that poorly filling-in the past three weeks – but Delhomme’s the starter and he has experience against Atlanta.

The problem lies if the Browns alter the game plan too much if Delhomme comes back. The past three weeks have shown what we’ve known since last season, the Browns are a running team and need to run the ball to have a chance at winning. Hopefully the offense can resist the urge to work in too many chances for Delhomme to “make a play” and, instead, stick with what’s been working.

Coach Eric Mangini addressed that point during one of his press conferences by saying the team isn’t going to force the ball to under-performing wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, and presumably Brian Robiskie; that’s sound thinking and the Browns need to stick to the plan.

If Delhomme returns, we should also see the return of the no-huddle offense that worked so well in the preseason. The Browns have been unable or unwilling to use the no-huddle with Wallace at quarterback, it will be a nice change of pace if they can reincorporate it into the offense.

The Best Browns vs. Falcons Game I’ve Seen

Easily the 2002 game that propelled the Browns into the playoffs. William Green’s 178 yards rushing and two touchdowns, the goal line stand, a win to shockingly put the team into the playoffs. Read The Plain Dealer‘s game story here. Here’s video of Green’s big run.

The Prediction

The improvement the Browns have shown through the first four weeks of the season tilts this game in their favor. Atlanta may be the more talented team on paper, but the Browns are playing better and that will result in their second win of the season.

Record on the year: 1-2-1

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