The Cleveland Browns head into week three looking to prove they are a combination of the defense that played in week one and the offense played in week two.
Pat Shurmur in his press conference this week said “We have to win this game,” as 0-3 would not be the way to go into Baltimore on short week for Thursday night football. A win would prove the plan Shurmur has put in place is starting to work and provide credibility to the good things the team has done in first two weeks of the season.
The outcome of the game comes down to these five keys.
Can Mitchell Schwartz block Mario Williams?
The Browns have either had a running back chip on the right side of the line or had a tight end line up on right side to stay in to help on his side. If the Browns get behind and have to throw a lot, Schwartz could be on an island with Super Mario.
Stopping C.J. Spiller
The Browns are giving up a 115 yards per game average through two games. It doesn’t get any easier as the leading rusher in the NFL, C.J. Spiller, comes to town averaging 10 yards per carry. While the upgrade in speed in the linebacker group has been mostly good for the Browns, it also has not healed the poor run defense. The problem with young speed players is they over pursue leaving big gaps and cut back lanes.
Locate Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron
The Browns were able to gets the big names going last week against the Bengals with Trent Richardson scoring two touchdowns and Brandon Weeden and throwing for over 300 yards. In order for the Browns to take the next step, they need big plays from other players. Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon are two players that haven’t had much action in the regular season, with a combined three catches. The Bills focus will go to Richardson, which should leave one on one opportunities for others to make plays.
Handling the Bills inside pass rush
The defensive ends Mario Williams and Mark Anderson were the big offseason stories for the Bills, but the real problems for the Browns will be keeping Marcel Darius and Kyle Williams out of Brandon Weeden’s face. The rookie quarterback did a good job of stepping up in the pocket in week two. Alex Mack will have to help the guards slow down the interior pass rush.
Make the Special Teams Special Again
In the Pat Shurmur era, the special teams have been below average. Last week's 82 yard punt return for a touchdown just added to the list. Last year, excluding Phil Dawson, the Browns had snap problems and only one return for a touchdown. The Browns needs to get Josh Cribbs back in the end zone on special teams and keep Leodis McKelvin out of the end zone on special teams.
This game will go a long way to solve the mystery; are these teams’ winners or losers?