The Browns begin their longest stretch of road games in nearly a decade when they play the Miami Dolphins on Sunday afternoon at Sun Life Stadium.
It will be the first of three road games for the Browns, who follow the trip to Miami with games at the Buffalo Bills (December 12) and Cincinnati Bengals (December 19). The last time the Browns played three consecutive road games came in 2001, when they traveled to Green Bay (December 23), Tennessee (December 30) and Pittsburgh (January 6) in consecutive weeks.
After breaking down the game film, Coach Eric Mangini has seen a lot of familiar things out of the Dolphins that he remembered from his days as an assistant under Bill Parcells.
“I like the way this team’s built,” he said earlier this week. “They’re big; they’re physical; they’re tough; they play with a lot of intensity. You can see how strong of an influence Bill had on that team and when you look at them they’re second in fewest penalties and they’re first in fewest penalty yards so they’re disciplined, all things which are going to present challenges. Defensively, this is another team that generates negative plays, negative runs, second in the NFL in that and they are top ten in 15 different defensive categories.”
Defensively, linebacker Cameron Wake sets the tone. He has 10.5 of the Dolphins’ 27 total sacks this season, in addition to registering 41 tackles through 11 games. The former Canadian Football League player had a career-high three-sacks at the Green Bay Packers earlier this year.
“That’s always fantastic when you pull somebody out of the Canadian league or the UFL or wherever you find them to then have them come in and be productive,” Mangini said. “It’s also a great thing to be able to talk about as a coach because sometimes, your career takes some different path and if you keep improving and you’re going to get another shot, now what do you do with that shot? He got that shot and has really taken it and done some great things with it. There’s a lot of guys that will kind of kick around and suddenly they explode on the scene.”
The Browns will try and combat Wake’s effectiveness with the running of
With his three rushing touchdowns last weekend, Hillis became the fifth player in Browns history to register double-digit rushing scores in a season. Brown reached double-digit touchdowns five times in his career, while fellow Hall of Famer Leroy Kelly achieved the feat in four seasons. Kevin Mack and Mike Pruitt each had one double-digit touchdown season in their careers with the Browns.
Hillis needs only 95 rushing yards to become the ninth player in team history to reach 1,000 in a season. Brown reached the mark seven times, while Mike Pruitt achieved the feat in four different seasons. Kelly and Greg Pruitt each tallied 1,000-yard seasons three times and Jamal Lewis reached the mark twice. Mack, Earnest Byner and Reuben Droughns gained 1,000-plus yards in a season once during their time with the Browns.
Hillis has gained 71 first downs and scored 78 points through 11 games this year. He is second in first downs and tied with Houston running back Arian Foster for second in scoring among non-kickers.
Running the football will also be a key for the Dolphins.
Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown have combined to produce another strong season out of the backfield. Brown leads the way with 539 yards and three touchdowns on 140 carries, while Williams ranks second on the team with 496 yards and a pair of scores on 112 attempts.
“It’s too hard to block-tackle against backs in this league and when you get to the quality of the back increases, the effectiveness of that style of tackling decreases dramatically,” Mangini said. “You try to block-tackle Ricky Williams, it’s not going to work; same thing with Ronnie Brown. He’s very patient in the back field. He’s got a great ability to navigate through traffic and nothing's hurried. It’s almost like when he’s reading the defense, it slows down for him and you’ve got to be sound.”
The Browns, who will complete a three-game road swing against Florida teams on Sunday, are 6-7-0 all-time and 1-3-0 in road games against the Dolphins. However, they come in on a two-game winning streak against Miami.
When the two teams met on October 14, 2007 at Cleveland Browns Stadium, the Browns earned a 41-31 victory. Then Browns quarterback Derek Anderson completed 18-of-25 passes for 245 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Anderson connected with tight end Kellen Winslow five times for 90 yards and wide receiver Braylon Edwards five times for 67 yards. Edwards caught all three of Anderson’s touchdown passes.
Defensively, the Browns held Miami to 356 total yards, including a net of just 110 yards rushing. They also registered two interceptions of Dolphins quarterback Cleo Lemon, who completed 24-of-43 attempts for 256 yards and two touchdowns against the pair of turnovers.
The Browns head to Miami with a 4-7 record after a 24-23 victory over the Carolina Panthers last Sunday afternoon at Cleveland Browns Stadium. The Dolphins, currently in third place in the AFC East behind the New England Patriots and New York Jets, are 6-5 after posting a 33-17 win at the Oakland Raiders last weekend.
Fans can watch Sunday's game at 1:00pm ET on local CBS affiliate WOIO-TV 19. Greg Gumbel (play-by-play) and Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Dierdorf (color analyst) will provide the coverage.
The game is also available along the Browns Radio Network with Jim Donovan, Doug Dieken and Jamir Howerton on the call. The Countdown to Kickoff pregame show hosted by Mike Snyder and Mike Pagel begins at 11:30am. The Browns Radio Network’s flagship station is 100.7 FM/WMMS.