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Recent posts by Mike Wilkening
Here's a closer look at a matchup to watch in Sunday's Browns-Saints game.
Saints QB Drew Brees vs. Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan
Of all of the matchups we've discussed this week, this may be the most enjoyable to watch. On one side, we have the accurate Brees, reigning Super Bowl MVP, someone who always seems as though he knows where to go with the ball, against a Browns defense coordinated by Ryan, who likes to blitz.
The problem is, when opponents have picked up the blitz, the Browns have run into some big problems. Each of the Browns' top three cornerbacks — Sheldon Brown, Eric Wright and Joe Haden — has given up a touchdown when in one-on-one coverage after the opponent's pass protection gave the quarterback the time needed to deliver the ball. Overall, Cleveland has surrendered 11 TD passes, tied for fourth-most in the NFL.
The Browns did not sack Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger last week, though they did deliver some pressure. Brees doesn't take many sacks and will be tough for the Cleveland rush to bring down. Brees has been sacked twice in three different games this season (Weeks 2-4), so perhaps that is a reasonable goal for the Browns.
But that alone won't be enough to slow down this versatile Saints passing attack. Nine different Saints receivers have caught at least nine passes this season.
The last time Brees faced a Rob Ryan-led defense was 2008, and he had a field day, completing 26-of-30 passes for 320 yards with three TDs in New Orleans' 34-3 win over Oakland. Brees was sacked just once and completed his first 16 passes. Also notable: The Raiders were able to keep the game close early and trailed only 10-3 at halftime. However, the Saints rolled to 24 points in the first 18:41 in the second half.
Getting Brees out of rhythm figures to be a priority for the Browns, but whether they will be able to do it — and the risks they may have to take in their attempt to do so — remains to be seen.