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Game Preview: Browns-Packers

Posted Oct 19, 2013

The Cleveland Browns hit the road for the first of two straight away games, starting Sunday at Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers.

The Cleveland Browns are looking to get back in the win column this Sunday against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field after having their three-game winning streak snapped with a 31-17 loss to the Detroit Lions last weekend.

The Browns recognize there will be challenges on both sides of the football, and it starts with quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

“I’m a big fan of his,” Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden said of Rodgers. “To me, he’s one of the top two or three quarterbacks. He’s fun to watch. You flip on the film and when he throws the football, it’s kind of different.

“He’s just an outstanding player. He’s going to give his offense a chance to score points. They run the ball well, so that’s taking some pressure off of him. He’s a good player.”

Despite being sacked 14 times for 99 lost yards in the first six games of the season, Rodgers has completed 118 of 184 attempts (64.1 percent) for 1,646 yards and 10 touchdowns against four interceptions.

He has distributed the ball to 12 different pass-catchers, most notably, wide receivers Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson. Although he suffered a leg injury that will keep him out of action for an extended period of time in the Packers’ 19-17 win at Baltimore last week, Cobb has a team-best 29 catches for 378 yards and two touchdowns.

Nelson leads the Packers with 484 yards and four touchdowns and is second to Cobb with 27 catches.

“Right now, I think it’s that intangible X-factor of heart, drive, desire and will,” Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton said of what makes Rodgers effective. “He sat in the green room for I don’t know how many picks, and he knew he was probably a better player than who were going in front of him. He has great feet, decision-making, accuracy, ability to throw on the run, check into the right play. He’s probably that guy that’s in the prime of his career. Is he the best quarterback in the prime of his career? Yeah, I think he is.”

Horton is hoping the returns of outside linebackers Jabaal Sheard (knee) and Quentin Groves (ankle) will help the Browns put pressure on Rodgers after registering only one sack against the Lions last Sunday.

“I’m hoping part of this will erase itself by having fresh bodies out there,” Horton said. “Paul (Kruger) took roughly 60-something snaps last week, as did (Barkevious) Mingo. With having a full rotation back at outside linebacker, you can keep them fresh. If you can get them 42 snaps combined, hopefully, it will make a difference because it’s fresh bodies going up against those offensive tackles.”

While Horton and the Browns’ defense will do everything they can to disrupt Rodgers, the offense will look to contend with an aggressive Green Bay defensive unit led by coordinator Dom Capers.

“They adapt to each team they’re playing, and they play awfully well,” Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner said. “They’re very aggressive in the secondary. They’ve got a lot of different blitz packages, and we’re working hard to get ready for Green Bay. They present a lot of problems. They’ve got some young players that are filling in for some of those guys that are hurt, and they played awfully well for them last week.”

With the loss of linebacker Clay Matthews III due to injury, Ohio native A.J. Hawk has become one of the Packers’ key defensive players. In addition to leading the team with 52 total tackles, 36 solo stops and 16 assists, Hawk is tied for the team lead with three sacks for 18 lost yards.

Under Capers’ direction, the Packers have registered 17 sacks for 103 lost yards, and limited opponents to 391 rushing yards on 116 carries, an average of 3.4 yards per carry and 78.2 yards per game.

“They’ve got an extremely stout front seven,” six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas said. “They lost a couple guys on the outside because of injuries, but their three-guy rotation on the inside is pretty impressive. It’s one of the stoutest against the run that we’ll see all season.”

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