Cleveland Browns: 3 Keys to Upset Win Against Eagles
The Cleveland Browns have no chance whatsoever against the Philadelphia Eagles, if most NFL pundits are to be believed. But those same pundits very smugly and assuredly stated the same thing about the Dallas Cowboys going into Giants stadium for the season opener.
The difference in that game was that Dallas brought a physicality that the Giants simply were not expecting. The Cowboys have been considered more of a finesse team for several years now, something that their young head coach, Jason Garrett has been trying to change the past two years.
Wednesday night represented a huge step forward for the Cowboys and Sunday can be huge step forward for the Browns as well.
Philadelphia is tremendously physical on defense, but on offense they are more about speed, quickness and misdirection. Unfortunately, that's enough to roll up 50 points on Cleveland if they aren't prepared for it. Combating Philadelphia will require the following three keys.
Play Nasty, Physical Football Along the Offensive Line
The Browns can't afford to fall into the trap that so many offenses do against the Eagles and get intimidated by the wide nine formation and the immense talent and speed of Jason Babin and Trent Cole.
Instead, Cleveland has got to fire up it's O-line to a fever pitch and go out there and punch Philadelphia in the mouth (figuratively speaking, after all they're wearing face masks). The line has to be in for an absolute street fight and they must be willing to go at for the full 60 minutes.
The second the Eagles feel like they have the offensive line on their heels, it's church. Pound the rock so your linemen can pound on their linemen. Don't abandon the run, even if you get down by two touchdowns. If you do, you will play directly into their hands. No ones defensive line is really in the kind of game shape they need to go a full 60 minutes right now. Most of these players have only had a few snaps in the last two preseason games. Continue to pound the ball and by the fourth quarter the holes will be there.
Put a Premium on Hitting Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy
Vick can kill you in so many ways. Designed runs, improvised runs, deep passes—he's good at them all. But what he doesn't deal with so well is getting pounded. His "Achilles ribs" are his main vulnerability, but Vick has been injured in a variety of ways on countless occasions throughout his career. In fact, in 10 years, Vick has only played one full season.
When Vick runs, Cleveland needs all their defenders swarming to the ball. No cheap shots or late hits, but bring all the collisions the defense can muster. The same is true for McCoy. He is going to make great plays, he is too gifted to shut down all day. But regardless of whether he just ran for 18 yards or two, he needs to feel the physicality of the Browns defense in a powerful way.
Attack the Eagles Secondary
Yes, Philadelphia spent a bunch of money on Nnamdi Asomugha, but then they went and let go of Asante Samuel, which was mind-numbingly stupid. Samuel was ranked among the very elite corners in the league in 2011. Pro Football Focus listed him as seventh in coverage among all corners who played at least 60 percent of the snaps. He was far and away their best corner last year. Asomugha was ranked 34th by that measure.
The point being, their secondary is overrated. By pounding the ball up the middle early, Cleveland can set up the play action pass and get man coverage. They need to use double moves and attack aggressively. The Cowboys showed how well this tactic works in their upset win over the Giants. And they didn't just go after the weaker corners. Dallas torched the Giants best corner, Corey Webster, on several occasions. It comes down to being willing to go on the attack and stay on the attack.
Ultimately, the Eagles view themselves as karate masters going against bums. By coming out and beating them up in every phase of the game, the Browns can force the Eagles into a street fight they weren't expecting. Which is the only way the Browns have a chance.
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