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Game Preview: Browns-Cowboys

Posted Nov 17, 2012

The Cleveland Browns start the second half of their regular-season schedule with a trip to Cowboys Stadium to play the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

When the Cleveland Browns face the Cowboys at Dallas on Sunday, they will be competing against a team that has won two of its last four games, including a 38-23 decision at the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday.

Led by veteran quarterback Tony Romo, the Cowboys have outgained their opponents 3,354 to 2,869 in total yardage, but have been outscored in the first, second and fourth quarters of their games.

Romo has completed 230 of 344 attempts for 2,603 yards with 12 touchdowns against 13 interceptions. Tight end Jason Witten has 66 catches for 585 yards and one touchdown, while wide receivers Dez Bryant (45-590-three) and Miles Austin (43-669-four) have also been key contributors in the passing game.

“He’s one of those types of guys that can extend the play, can move around in the pocket,” defensive lineman Phil Taylor said. “We just have to get to him and wrap him up. That’s the only thing with him. He’s a good quarterback and to play (well) against him, we have to beat the one-on-ones in the pass rush and wrap him up because if we let him run around the pocket, he can hurt us.”

Browns coach Pat Shurmur feels Romo’s best quality as a quarterback may be his ability to keep plays alive by scrambling around, or in some cases, out of the pocket when Dallas’ protection breaks down.

“I think the game is never over when he’s got the ball in his hand,” Shurmur said. “He’s got outstanding weapons to throw the football to. Jason Witten leads all tight ends with 66 receptions. He’s got explosive players on the outside. They run the ball well. He’s proven that he can win games in this league. He has the ability to make big-time plays and I think that’s what makes him dangerous.”

Romo is not the only Cowboy who is dangerous with the ball in his hands.

Wide receivers Miles Austin and Dez Bryant are among the team leaders in receptions, yards, yards per catch and receiving touchdowns.

“Both of them have good size -- six-foot and over -- and speed to go with it,” said Browns defensive back Usama Young. “You can’t really sit on their route and once they catch the ball, they’re not looking to get down to the ground. They’re looking to get some extra yards. All that together, that makes them pretty good receivers. Then, they’ve got a guy that can throw them the ball. He can throw every route. Those guys are a talented group.”

Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden saw Bryant’s productivity up close, when they were teammates at Oklahoma State University.

Asked what advice he would give to the Browns’ defensive backs if they are defending Bryant, Weeden said, “Get physical with him, bump him around a little bit. Let him know you’re there.”

“I saw some things I’ve never seen anybody do running routes, catching the football,” Weeden said of Bryant. “He’s unbelievable. I like to say he’s grown up a lot. When we came in, he was an immature kid that had a long way to go. He’s a great kid. You’ll never find a better guy, ‘Yes sir, no sir.’ As a person, he’s one of my favorite guys I’ve ever played with.”

While Romo, Witten, Bryant and Austin will be the focal points of the Cowboys’ offense Sunday, the Browns also will be contending with a physical defense.

Under the direction of former Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, the Cowboys rank in the NFL’s top ten in total and passing defense. They have allowed the eighth-fewest total yards and seventh-fewest passing yards through the first 10 weeks of the 2012 regular season.

Eight-year veteran linebacker/defensive end DeMarcus Ware leads the team and is tied with Aldon Smith of San Francisco and Miami’s Cameron Wake for third in the NFL with 9.5 sacks. Only Houston’s J.J. Watt (10.5) and Denver’s Von Miller (10) have more sacks than Ware, Smith and Wake.

“If you don’t cover him up, he can make a lot of trouble in the backfield, whether you’re throwing the ball or running the ball,” Browns running back Trent Richardson said of Ware. “Their linebackers, they like to come up and try to hit you in your mouth. They’ve got pretty quick, fast linebackers that run sideline-to-sideline, so you’ve got to try to hit one move and go.”

Second-year linebacker Bruce Carter is one of those linebackers that garnered the attention of the Browns on film. Browns wide receiver Greg Little, a former college teammate at the University of North Carolina, has seen a lot of progress from Carter.

“He’s starting to play more, sideline-to-sideline,” Little said. “I talked with him (Tuesday) night and we kind of joke about what we see from each other on the tape. He’s a very athletic guy and to see him have to get the defense lined up, make the calls, set the front, he’s really grown. He was just always a freak athlete. I think ESPN did a thing on him being the No. 1 freak in the country in college. The numbers that he put up in the weight room were just ridiculous.”

On the back end of the Cowboys’ defense, rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne has registered 32 total tackles, 27 solo stops, one interception, a fumble recovery and six passes defended. Last week, Claiborne was penalized five times in the win over the Eagles.

“You look at Mo Claiborne over there and he’s an aggressive guy,” Weeden said. “He’s a really hands-on guy. They like to play physical; they’re bigger corners. Their safeties are guys that will fly around and hit you. I see a good secondary. I see a veteran defense. The guys up front are really good. The linebackers are good, veteran players that can run and make plays.”

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