After completing the home portion of the schedule last weekend, the Cleveland Browns make their second-to-last road trip of the 2012 regular season with Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
It is the first time since 2004 that the Browns will end the regular season with at least two road games. The Browns split the 2004 games. After losing in Miami, they responded with a win over the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium.
The Browns ended the regular season with at least two road games 31 times in their history, starting with the first four years of the franchise from 1946-49. In 1948, the Browns defeated the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dons, San Francisco 49ers and Brooklyn Dodgers in four straight road games to end the season.
The team is 39-28-2 in consecutive road games at the end of the regular season.
The Browns enter the game after having a three-game winning streak snapped by the Washington Redskins, 38-21, last Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium, while the Broncos have won nine consecutive games after starting the season at 2-3 following a 31-21 loss at the New England Patriots on Oct. 7.
The Browns and Broncos last played on Sept. 20, 2009, in Denver. With a 14-point fourth quarter, the Broncos sealed a 27-6 home win over the Browns.
Then-Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton completed 19 of 37 attempts for 263 yards with one touchdown and an 83.5 quarterback rating. Running back Correll Buckhalter ran for 76 yards and one touchdown on just nine carries. In addition to Buckhalter’s 8.4 yards-per-carry average, the Broncos got a lift in the running game from Knowshon Moreno, who gained 75 yards on 17 rushes.
Former Browns quarterback Brady Quinn completed 18 of 31 attempts for 161 yards with no touchdowns and one interception and was sacked four times for 15 lost yards. Running back Jamal Lewis gained just 38 yards on 14 carries.
The Browns were three of 14 on third-down attempts and had only 11 first downs in the game. Despite an early fumble by Peyton Hillis on a kickoff return, the Broncos went eight of 15 on third down and won the time of possession battle (32:44 to 27:16).
As the game unfolds, here are several things to keep an eye on:
Parker has registered a sack in four of the last five games.
As a team, the Browns’ 36 sacks are tied for seventh in the league. In 13 games this year, the Browns registered more sacks than in all of the 2011 season.
Last week, Richardson rushed for two touchdowns and broke Pro Football Hall of Famer, Jim Brown’s franchise rookie record for rushing touchdowns. His 12 overall touchdowns surpassed the mark co-held by Brown and Browns Legend, Eric Metcalf.
Richardson’s 1,249 yards of total offense and 897 yards rushing both rank third among first-year players, behind Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin (1,647, 1,250) and Washington’s Alfred Morris (1,370, 1,322). He is third in the NFL in receptions by a rookie (48) and 51 first downs.
With 100 yards rushing against the Broncos, Richardson would be the first Browns rookie ever to rush for 100 or more yards in four games during a single season. With 46 yards rushing, Richardson would pass Brown (942), for the most rushing yards by a Browns rookie. Browns Legend Kevin Mack rushed for 1,104 yards as a first-year player in 1985.
With 103 yards rushing, Richardson would join quarterback
Richardson could become the first Cleveland rookie ever to rush for a touchdown in five straight games. He would be the first Browns player to accomplish the feat since Greg Pruitt in 1975. With two rushing touchdowns against the Broncos, Richardson would be the first Brown to rush for two or more scores in three straight games since Brown opened the 1958 season with a pair of rushing scores, followed up by two three-touchdown games.
Gordon is second among all NFL rookies with the five touchdown catches and leads the way with 759 yards receiving. Gordon is first with the most receptions of at least 20 yards (12) and fourth in receptions among all first-year NFL players. Gordon’s 759 yards and 45 catches are the most of any rookie taken in the Supplement Draft since it started in 1977.
With a touchdown Sunday, Gordon would be the first Browns rookie to have six receiving touchdowns in a season since Andre’ Davis in 2002.
Quarterback Brandon Weeden. Weeden has completed 285 of 498 attempts for 3,281 yards and 14 touchdowns against 17 interceptions through 14 starts this season. Weeden ranks first among all rookies in franchise history in wins (five), passing yards (3,281), and passing yards in a game (364 at Oakland on Dec. 2).
Weeden’s 69-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver
Three weeks ago in Oakland, Weeden joined Derek Anderson, Bernie Kosar, Brian Sipe and Pro Football Hall of Famer, the late Otto Graham, as the only quarterbacks in team history to throw for 300 or more yards at least three times in a single season. Anderson (three in 2007) and Graham (three in 1950) each accomplished the feat once, while Kosar (three each in 1986 and 1987) reached the mark twice. Sipe tossed four 300-yard games in 1979, and again in 1983, and six in 1980.
If Weeden throws for 300 yards against the Broncos, he would tie Sipe as the only Browns quarterback to throw for 300 or more yards at least four times in a season. Also, he is one passing touchdown away from tying Tim Couch’s rookie record of 15, set in the 1999 season.
Dawson has converted 302 of 359 career field goal attempts with the Browns and ranks second in team history with 1,261 points. His 84.1 field-goal percentage is first all-time in team history and the seventh-best total among those NFL kickers with at least 100 career field goals. He has the highest percentage among those kickers who have made at least 300 field goals.
Dawson is six for six on field goal attempts and five for five on extra point tries in four games against the Broncos.
Cribbs’ 12,049 combined kickoff and punt return yards rank sixth on the NFL’s career list.
His eight kickoffs for touchdowns are tied for an NFL record and he has added three more scores on punt returns. The combined 11 touchdowns are fifth all-time and with one more, Cribbs would equal Hall and Metcalf for third place. Cribbs is also 14 yards away from passing Dennis Northcutt’s mark for the most punt return yards in franchise history (2,149).
Since the start of the 2011 season, Cribbs has nine returns of at least 40 yards. Each of those returns led to Browns scores -- five touchdowns and four field goals.
In three games against the Broncos, Cribbs has gained 54 yards on nine catches, 52 yards on four carries and 289 yards on 11 kickoff returns.
Browns offensive linemen
Brown has 26 career interceptions and is tied for the fourth-longest active streak of consecutive seasons with an interception. Green Bay’s Charles Woodson has had an interception in 15 straight seasons, while Denver’s Champ Bailey (14) and Cincinnati’s Nate Clements (12) rank ahead of Brown and Baltimore’s Ed Reed (11).
Brown’s 146 pass breakups since 2002 are third, trailing only Atlanta’s Asante Samuel (158) and Bailey (153).
Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson. The Browns’ defensive captain leads the team with 106 total tackles. He has 56 solo tackles -- tied for the most on the team -- 3.5 sacks, two interceptions, five pass breakups and two forced fumbles. He has recovered two other fumbles and returned his first interception of the season for a touchdown.
With his third tackle last week, Jackson reached the 100-tackle mark for the fifth time in his career.
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. After missing all of the 2011 regular season due to multiple neck surgeries, Manning took over the reins of Denver’s offense and led them to an AFC West Division championship. Manning has completed 347 of 511 attempts for 4,016 yards and 31 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. The Broncos have protected him well and allowed only 21 sacks for 137 lost yards.
With 300 yards passing, Manning would tie Jay Cutler for the most 300-yard games by a Broncos quarterback in a single season (eight).
Wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. The second-year wide receiver has benefitted from having Manning in Denver. He has gained 1,210 yards and scored eight touchdowns on 78 receptions this year.
Decker has been on the receiving end of 72 passes, which he has turned into 923 yards and a team-leading nine touchdowns.
Linebacker Von Miller. Miller registered 11.5 quarterback sacks as a rookie in the NFL last fall and built on that early success with a solid second campaign. Miller enters Sunday’s game with 16 quarterback sacks, the third-most in the league behind San Francisco’s Aldon Smith and Houston’s J.J. Watt. Smith and Watt each have 19.5 quarterback sacks.
With one sack, Miller would tie Elvis Dumervil for the most sacks by a Bronco in a single season (17). He is one forced fumble away from breaking Denver’s franchise record of six, currently held by Dennis Smith (1989) and Dumervil (2012).
The Browns (5-9) come into Sunday’s game after a 38-21 loss to the Redskins at Cleveland Browns Stadium last weekend. The Broncos enter the contest at 11-3 following a 34-17 victory over the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday.
Browns offensive assistant Chris Beake grew up in Fort Collins, Colo., and is a graduate of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. He was a graduate assistant for the Air Force Academy in 1994. Beake is the son of longtime Broncos general manager, John Beake, who held the job from 1984-98.
Ray Rhodes, the senior assistant to the defense, was the Broncos’ defensive coordinator from 2001-02.
Browns defensive backs coach Tim Hauck played for the Broncos from 1995-96.
Broncos defensive back Mike Adams played for the Browns from 2007-11.
Defensive back David Bruton went to Miamisburg High School, kicker Matt Prater (Mayfield Heights), linebacker Danny Trevathan (Youngstown), and defensive lineman Derek Wolfe (Lisbon/Beaver Local) are Ohio natives.
Wolfe (University of Cincinnati) went to college in Ohio.
Broncos defensive quality control coach Cory Undlin was a Browns assistant from 2005-08. In 2005-06, Undlin was a defensive quality control coach. In 2007, he served as a secondary and assistant special teams coach. He was the Browns’ defensive backs coach in 2008.
Denver defensive line coach Jay Rodgers was a recruiting coordinator at The Ohio State University in 2000, while running backs coach Eric Studesville was the secondary coach at Kent State University from 1995-96. Wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert served in the same capacity at Ohio University in 1995.
Broncos director of player development Jerry Butler spent 12 seasons with the Browns, first as a coach (1999-2000) and then, in the player development department (2001-2010).
Fans can watch Sunday’s game at 4:05 p.m. ET on local CBS affiliate WOIO-TV 19. Ian Eagle will provide the play-by-play, while Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts (color analysis) will join him on the call.
The game is also available along the PNC Bank Browns Radio Network with Jim Donovan (play-by-play), Doug Dieken (color) and Jamir Howerton (sideline reporter) on the call.
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