Browns-Chiefs: Five keys

Posted Oct 25, 2013

Browns Senior Editor Vic Carucci breaks down the five keys for Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.

>>Jason Campbell proves to be a genuine upgrade at quarterback. It isn’t enough that the Browns decided to demote Brandon Weeden. Campbell’s promotion to starter must pay immediate dividends with his providing the offense with some sort of spark. After all, that was the reason for the switch. Campbell’s nine years of NFL experience and 71 career starts should help him to overcome the enormous challenge of dealing with a defense that leads the NFL with 35 sacks and with the deafening roar of the Arrowhead Stadium crowd. But it might not be realistic to expect him to perform at the highest level in his first start for the Browns. Campbell has spent the week doing what he really hasn’t done since joining the team in the offseason: establishing a sense of timing with his receivers, developing chemistry with his pass-protectors, and getting fully comfortable with working with the entire starting offense and a full game plan (compared to the watered-down versions used in the preseason). It’s fair to say that he might need a few games to find his groove.

>>The Browns’ offensive line holds up against outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, as well as the rest of the Chiefs’ sack-happy defensive front. This is where that off-the-charts crowd noise presents the biggest problem. The Browns have spent the week preparing with simulated crowd noise blaring from speakers in their indoor practice facility. Still, nothing can replicate what will be heard from those 74,000-plus Chiefs fans, stoked by the team’s 7-0 record, on Sunday. Communication between Campbell and his linemen and the linemen with each other will be extremely difficult and likely lead to false-start penalties, along with some hesitation among the blockers as they assume their pass sets. All of that gives a huge advantage to the Chiefs’ defense. So, too, does Campbell’s tendency to have a long, deliberate throwing motion on deeper passes.

>>The Browns’ defensive front does some sacking of its own. This group needs to get back to the dominant form it showed through the early part of the season. There hasn’t been enough pressure lately from outside linebackers Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo, who seems to have hit a little bit of a rookie wall. Last week’s return of outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard, who had missed three games with a knee injury, never quite provided the difference-making boost that many of us expected. But he should show a little less rust on Sunday. Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith is extremely bright and knows how to keep himself out of trouble through great pocket awareness and a sense of where to go with the ball when under duress. Smith also has tremendous mobility and can make significant gains scrambling or on designed runs.

>>Jamaal Charles can’t be allowed to take the game over. The Chiefs’ running back can do considerable damage as a runner and a receiver, and leads the Chiefs in both categories. He already has rushed for 561 yards, with an average of 4.2 yards per carry, and six touchdowns. Charles is given to rip off long gains because of his ability to accelerate at the second level of the defense. The Browns’ run defense hasn’t been nearly as smothering as it was at the beginning of the season. This would be an ideal time to get back to doing so. Additionally, the Chiefs will seek the mismatches that the Browns’ last two opponents, the Packers and Lions, have found in pass coverage with their backs and tight ends. Going back to his 14 seasons as the helm of the Philadelphia Eagles, Chiefs first-year coach Andy Reid loves to feature his primary running back in the passing game. Charles’ 36 receptions for 337 yards reflect as much.

>>Don’t let Alex Smith beat you. If the Browns are able to contain Charles, they absolutely cannot allow Smith to beat them with his passing arm. Simply put, Smith does not have the big-time quarterbacking talent that the Browns have seen the past two weeks in facing Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Detroit’s Matthew Stafford. Smith is a consummate game-manager whose success is driven by avoiding mistakes and being mostly efficient. The Browns’ defense struggled mightily on third down against Rodgers and Stafford. It is (or, at least, has been) too strong to let the same thing happen against Smith, who only averages 6.28 yards per pass attempt, does not have much in the way of game-breaking receivers, and has thrown for only seven touchdowns in seven games. Of course, he also has only four interceptions.

>>Carucci’s Call is presented by Revol Wireless. Come Save With Us.

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