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Browns vs. Dolphins – Week 3

Fresh off their first win in the Pat Shurmur era, the Cleveland Browns return home to take on the Miami Dolphins and try to turn up the temperature on Dolphins coach Tony Sparano’s chair.

The Opposition

Miami record: 0-2
Offensive rank: 10th overall/9th passing/8th rushing
Defensive rank: 32nd overall/30th passing/22nd rushing
All-time record: Dolphins lead 9-7 (including playoffs), but Browns are 5-4 in Cleveland
Last meeting: Browns won 13-10 in 2010
The line: Browns (-2.5)

What to Watch For

How the Browns respond to being back at home following the mistake-filled season opener against the Bengals.

The Dolphins come into the game as the worst defense in the NFL, but that has a qualifier to it. They have given up the third-most passing yards and the second-most passing touchdowns in the league so far, but those numbers came against New England’s Tom Brady and Houston’s Matt Schaub, quarterbacks who can make any defense look silly when they are on their game.

Is the Miami defense really that bad, or are the numbers skewed because of the level of the opposition?

This will be a good game to see what kind of progress the Browns have made as they transition to the West Coast offense. The offense should be getting better each week as they make up for the repetitions they lost during the shortened workout.

If Colt McCoy and the receivers are on, they should be able to take advantage of the Dolphins, especially since Miami will be without starting cornerback Vontae Davis and possibly back-up corner Will Allen. Miami is giving up 30.5 points per game and allowing opponents to convert on 46.4 percent of their third downs.

Sounds like a potential good day for the offense.

Of course, the Browns may be without starting running back Peyton Hillis (strep throat), as well as starting wide receivers Josh Cribbs (groin) and Mohamed Massaquoi (ankle), who are all questionable for the game.

If all three are out, then the Dolphins can key on back-up running back Montario Hardesty, pay a little attention to rookie wide receiver Greg Little and ignore Brian “BlutarskiRobiskie, which would make for a long day for McCoy and the offense.

Much as the Dolphins defensive ranking may be artificially low because of the opposition, the Browns No. 6 ranked defense (No. 2 against the pass) may be a bit high because of playing Cincinnati and Indianapolis.

The Dolphins can still run the ball and, even under Dick Jauron’s “play fast” defense, the Browns are struggling to stop the run.

But the Browns have been tough in the red zone as they are tied for third in red-zone defense and didn’t give up a touchdown to the Colts until there were 24 seconds left in the game. The Dolphins may play right into that strength as they are weak in the red zone under offensive coordinator Brian Daboll (think field goals on Sunday, not touchdowns) and have made the eighth-most negative plays in the red zone in the league.

The Most Frustrating Browns vs. Dolphins Game We’ve Ever Seen

The 1986 playoff game where the Browns blew a 21-3 lead in the third quarter as Miami rallied back to win 24-21.

We can still see Miami’s Ron Davenport running over Don Rogers on his way to the end zone.

The Prediction

If we knew the Browns were going to be healthy on offense we would feel a lot better about this game. There’s no such thing as an “easy win” for the Browns, even if the other team is 0-2 and falling apart under a lame duck coach.

We’re worried that the Dolphins are not as bad as they’ve looked over the first two weeks, but that the Browns are what they’ve looked like: a young team adjusting to a new offense and new defense that can play well in spurts, but possibly not yet for an entire game.

And the Dolphins do have the third-best road record in the NFL since 2008.

But the Browns did look noticeably better at times last week against the Colts, which gives us hope.

The Browns should think touchdowns, not field goals, just enough on Sunday to pull out the win and stay on pace with Pittsburgh and Baltimore at the top of the AFC North division.

Take the Browns and the points.

Record picking the Browns (using the point spread) this year: 1-1-0.

(Photo by The Plain Dealer)

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Browns vs. Dolphins – Week 13

The Browns head to Miami today looking for their first win on the road against the Dolphins since 1970.

The Opposition

Miami: 6-5
Offensive rank: 16th overall/15th passing/19th rushing
Defensive rank: 6th overall/4th passing/12th rushing
Strength of schedule: 5th
All-time record: Miami leads 9-6, including playoffs. The Browns haven’t beaten the Dolphins in Miami since 1970, their first meeting.
The line: Browns +4.5

What to Watch For

The Browns actually have a better chance to win this game than they are getting credit for as, in a lot of ways, these teams mirror each other.

The Dolphins are only 1-4 at home and their only quality win this season was an OT victory over Green Bay in Week 6.

After leading the league in rushing last year, the Dolphins haven’t had a 100-yard rusher this season and currently sit 19th in the league. But they did run for a season-high 186 yards while controlling the ball for more than 41 minutes in last week’s victory at Oakland. The Browns defense will have to get over its tackling problems for the Browns to have a chance to win this game.

The Dolphins are 0-5 when they have less than 25 rushing attempts this season, so the Browns need to be solid against the run and get the Dolphins into more passing situations.

The Browns should be able to run the ball with Peyton Hillis, as the Dolphins are giving up over 100 yards a game on the ground. Getting the running game going is the biggest key for the Browns, as in their last eight wins, dating back to last season, they have averaged 190 yards rushing. In the seven losses during that same time they have averaged only 95 yards.

So both teams will be looking to run the ball, hoping that they will not have to rely on their erratic quarterback play.

For the Dolphins, Chad Henne returned last week from a knee injury. He’ll make the start again today, the first time the Dolphins have started the same quarterback two weeks in a row in several weeks.

On the Browns side, Jake Delhomme will once again be back under center, which means we will:

  • See more activity from the wide receivers. We won’t use the word production because five-yard completions to the wide receivers are not really all that exciting or different than the eight-yard completions to the tight ends the Browns were getting with Seneca Wallace and Colt McCoy at quarterback.
  • A thrown-off-the-back-foot interception, a horrible throw while scrambling or being pulled down by a Miami defender, and an interception that is the result of locking onto one receiver.

At this point of the season and his career, there is no reason to expect anything else from Delhomme. He did it his last year in Carolina and he’s still doing it now. You want Delhomme as your starting quarterback you get the good – the use of the no-huddle offense for example – but you also have to live with the interceptions and just hope they don’t come at a bad time or that the defense can overcome them.

We would like to think that, facing the fourth-best passing defense in the league, the Browns will do their best to limit Delhomme’s passing attempts.

The Best Browns vs. Dolphins Game I’ve Ever Seen

The 1979 game the Browns won in overtime, 30-24. The Plain Dealer‘s game story is available here. Video highlights are available here and here.

The Prediction

Cue the record: the Browns can win if they don’t hurt themselves with turnovers or costly mistakes. While the Browns are improved (and improving) their margin for victory is so small they simply can’t afford mistakes.

Unfortunately, until he shows us otherwise, there’s no reason to think Delhomme can avoid those mistakes.

We’ll take the Dolphins minus the points in another entertaining, but close loss for the good guys.

Record picking the Browns this year: 2-8-1

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