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Browns-Texans matchup of the day: Thursday

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Recent posts by Mike Wilkening

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Posted Nov. 03, 2011 @ 10:58 a.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

Here's a matchup to watch in Sunday's Browns-Texans game.

Cleveland's pass protection vs. Houston's pass rush

How the Browns deal with the Texans' pass rush is no small concern. Cleveland's pass protection has been spotty recently, with QB Colt McCoy getting sacked four times in each of the last two games.

Of San Francisco's four sacks in its 20-10 win vs. Cleveland in Week Eight, two came against RB Chris Ogbonnaya. Both times, a rusher (OLB Ahmad Brooks and ILB Patrick Willis, respectively) came off the edge and Ogbonnaya couldn't hold up long enough. Ogbonnaya figures to play the most of the Browns' backs on Sunday, so how he fares in pass protection, both against edge rusher and blitzers, is a major issue.The same can be said, and perhaps even more so, when newly signed Thomas Clayton, who could be the top backup tailback, is in the game.

Brooks also beat Browns ORT Tony Pashos for a sack. Brooks started outside, then cut inside, and Pashos could not stop him from getting to McCoy, who fumbled. 49ers NT Isaac Sopoaga recovered, and San Francisco capitalized by scoring the game's first TD four plays later.

On the Niners' other takedown of McCoy, rookie OLB Aldon Smith looped from the left side to the right and got to the quarterback.

The Texans lost their top pass rusher, Mario Williams, to a season-ending injury in October, but they can still muster a strong and varied rush. DE Antonio Smith (4½ sacks) has the quickness, power and athleticism to be a tough matchup for guards and centers. WLB Brooks Reed has notched a sack in each of the past two games. He beat Jaguars ORT Guy Whimper with power when he took down Jaguars QB Blaine Gabbert in Week Eight. Also, WLB Connor Barwin has shown pass-rush ability.

Teams have had more success rushing against the right side of the Browns' line than the left side, with Pashos and ORG Shaun Lauvao combining to surrender five sacks, according to STATS. OLT Joe Thomas is a standout, as is C Alex Mack, and OLG Jason Pinkston's strength is pass blocking.

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