Cleveland Browns vs. Indianapolis Colts: 6 Keys to the Game for Indianapolis
The Browns—who sit at 1-5—simply aren't a very good football team. The Colts and their fans will be expecting a win.
They can deliver it by keeping some things in mind.
Forget About Last Week
"You can't win them all."
We've all been told this borderline useless, beyond infuriating cliche—likely by our mother or grandmother—right in the middle of ranting about a loss.
Although I'd certainly contend it's not true, there is some value in believing it. Indianapolis needs to forget about last week's beatdown and write it off as a product of this mindless phrase.
It will be hard for Indy to do anything if they are hanging their heads.
Throw the Ball 50 Times
The Browns cannot defend the pass.
To date, they are giving up 294 passing yards per game and have surrendered 15 touchdowns (both bottom five in the league). They are also allowing over 27 points per game which is in the bottom 10 of the NFL.
This screams "throw the ball" to me if I'm Bruce Arians.
Indy has not been gun shy to this point in the season, with Luck throwing over 44 times per game. That number should increase against the Browns.
Reggie Wayne may struggle to find space against budding shutdown corner Joe Haden, but after him, Cleveland is quite thin in their secondary.
Coby Fleener, Donnie Avery and even T.Y. Hilton should be able to find ample space to work.
Don't Pretend Indianapolis Has a Running Game
If it's 3rd-and-1, throw it.
Indy doesn't have the offensive line nor the quality at running back to run the ball in obvious running situations.
If it's 2nd-and-16, don't run a draw.
Regardless of the number of players in the box, the holes simply won't be there.
Do not read this slide and say "Cleveland has a terrible run defense, so we should plow them!"
Prior to last week, the New York Jets were allowing over 170 rushing yards per game. Indianapolis managed a putrid 41 rushing yards against them.
Not worth it.
Unless it's honestly a surprise, Indy should abandon the run until Donald Brown returns.
Force Brandon Weeden to Win the Game
After being annihilated by Shonn Greene and the Jets running game, it's no secret that Indianapolis can't stop the run.
"Gang Green" piled up 252 yards on the ground last week to go along with a trifecta of touchdowns.
And Greene, a perpetual underachiever, accounted for 161 yards and all three rushing scores.
Browns tailback Trent Richardson is having a better season than Greene is. Unless Indy sells out to stop the run, it just isn't going to happen.
The Colts will have a much better chance of stopping Weeden, who is completing only 55 percent of his passes, from making game-changing plays; especially due to the overall lack of talent at wide receiver for the Browns.
Give Mitchell Schwartz All He Can Handle
Although the Browns have a perennial Pro Bowler at left tackle in Joe Thomas, their right tackle is far less intimidating.
Rookie tackle Mitchell Schwartz should have his hands full this weekend. Robert Mathis, Indy's leading pass-rusher, has already been ruled out for the contest. Nonetheless, expect the Colts to bring as much pressure as possible at the rookie Schwartz.
Pat Angerer has been a full participant in practice all week, and that will give Indy a few options. Not only will Jerry Hughes be available to fill in for Mathis, but Indianapolis could also spell Hughes with rookie linebacker Jerrell Freeman, who has played admirably in Angerer's absence.
If the Colts want to get to Weeden, it should be through Schwartz.
Limit Players Named Josh
The vast majority of explosive plays for the Browns will come from either Josh Gordon or Josh Cribbs.
Notoriously bad on special teams, the Colts must make an effort to keep the ball out of Cribbs' hands. This may mean directional punting, which I have always advocated for. Cribbs has only called for one fair catch this season, returning 14 others. If the Colts don't bear down on him quickly, he could break one.
Cribbs is also averaging over 30 yards per kick return. Though he hasn't taken one to the house yet this season, he has a history of doing just that. Sooner or later he's going to do it. Indy should take extra care in sticking to their lanes on kickoffs.
Josh Gordon—whom Cleveland selected in the 2012 supplemental draft—has been a lightning rod for big plays recently. Gordon has caught touchdowns of 70-plus yards in consecutive weeks, providing the Browns with a downfield threat that stretches defenses. Indy can't afford to give up cheap touchdowns to anybody, even the Browns.
Seventy-yard bombs to rookie receivers not named Randy Moss are categorically cheap touchdowns.