Running game highlights Browns' strengths, but pass defense a weakness

Posted Oct. 04, 2010 @ 6:50 p.m.
Posted By Mike Wilkening

After the Browns' 23-20 win vs. Cincinnati on Sunday, Browns OLB Scott Fujita delivered a balanced — and blunt — assessment on where 1-3 Cleveland stands. 

"It is good to get a win in the bank, but this does nothing but guarantee that we are not going to be 0-16," said Fujita, who blocked a field goal and whose sack and forced fumble set up a Cleveland field goal. "It is one win, feels great, but we are going to have to build on this."

Indeed, the Browns still are still last in the AFC North, two games behind Baltimore and Pittsburgh. But they are in much better shape than they were a week ago, when they had lost their third consecutive game after failing to hold a fourth-quarter lead for the third time.

Noted Browns head coach Eric Mangini after the win Sunday, "I felt like we've been making steps toward this for a while. I felt like the guys have shown results throughout the course of the games; we just haven't been able to make enough plays to finally win the game, and today we did. It's different than some of the situations we've been in in the past. These guys are resilient and we're going to get into a ton of tough games throughout the course of the year, and understanding what we have to do to win those games and finishing the games is so important. I thought we got a lot closer to that, or we have been getting close to that, and we finally did here today, which I'm really proud of the group.

"Obviously, there are things that we have to fix and we will fix those things and we'll keep working the way that we've been working, and my expectation is for us to keep moving forward."

The PFW spin

What follows are three things that make the Browns a tough matchup right now — and three things that make them vulnerable:

Strengths

• Their running game is rugged and persistent, giving Cleveland a chance to wear down opponents. Peyton Hillis was pretty well held in check by the Bengals after he ran all over the Ravens the previous week, but Hillis struck late in the game with a 24-yard run off right tackle to give Cleveland its final, game-clinching first down. The Browns are more than happy to play a slug-it-out game, and if you can't stop the run, look out.

• The defense has some intriguing playmakers in the front seven. Fujita has played very well since coming over from New Orleans. OLB Matt Roth had two sacks Sunday. NT Ahtyba Rubin continues to play well, and Shaun Rogers had a nice game in Week Four. The Browns have not allowed a 100-yard rusher or a rushing touchdown in six consecutive games.

• The Browns are solid on special teams with the potential to be much, much better, as opponents have done well to limit RS Joshua Cribbs' return chances this season.

Weaknesses

• The secondary has given up far too many big plays the past two weeks. CB Eric Wright has not played well, and the other starting corner, Sheldon Brown, gave up a 78-yard TD to Terrell Owens Sunday. Cleveland is 29th in yards per pass play allowed (7.9 avg.).

• The Browns' ability to consistently stretch the field in the passing game is in question. If a defense defends short and intermediate routes well, the Cleveland passing game could struggle.

• Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan isn't afraid to blitz, but when the blitz has failed this season, it has failed miserably. The 78-yard TD to Owens came when the Browns brought seven rushers but could not get to QB Carson Palmer. Palmer threw deep to Owens, who got a step on Brown, who slipped, and Owens scored easily.