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Browns Mailbag

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Browns Mailbag: How have the Browns found ways to win with four quarterbacks?

Staff Writer Kelsey Russo answers your questions

Mailbag Week 15

The Browns are coming off an important win against the Jaguars in Week 14, as they opened a two-game home stand in Cleveland. They are 6-1 at home heading into Week 15. They could look to continue their strong home win record as they face the Bears on Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

As we continue through Week 15, we opened the mailbag and answered your questions.

What stands out as the biggest explanation for how we have found ways to win games with 4 different starting quarterbacks this season? – Nick Dolance, Surprise, AZ

It's a great question, and I think there are a few factors that help lead to an explanation. For how much of a cliché the saying is, this Browns' locker room truly has embraced the next-man-up mentality. The offense has worked through whoever was at quarterback, made the adjustments to their style of play and found games to succeed in either the run or the pass game.

On the defensive side, they have held themselves to a high standard, and have excelled at home. The Browns still lead the league in the least amount of total passing yards allowed this season with 2,335, as well as the lowest completion percentage for passing attempts at 56 percent. The Browns have allowed 1,343 total rushing yards this season but have allowed the fewest rushing first downs with 63.

There's another layer to this, though, as OC Alex Van Pelt said that their success starts with HC Kevin Stefanski. They have played to the strengths of each of their four quarterbacks.

"I think the mindset for him is we're always going to try to put whoever that person is behind center in the best position for them to be successful," Van Pelt said. "It all starts with the quarterback. If we can play to his skill set, whatever that is, that's going to help us all. And I think he's done a great job of how we design the plan each week for each guy that's playing and then how the game's called as well. So really, I think it's a hat off to Kev."

With all the injuries, can the Browns stop or slow down the Bears QB Justin Fields, who has one of the best passer rating and running yards per game? – Kenneth Piper, Dorset, OH

So, a couple of things here. Fields has a passer rating for the season at 91.8 over nine games that he's played, which is 14th in the league. However, the more complete stat to look at when it comes to evaluating quarterbacks is QBR – adjusted total quarterback rating. Fields' QBR is 48.0, which is 21st in the league.

Yet, he presents a challenge to the Browns defense as a dual-threat quarterback who can connect with his pass catchers, but also run the ball when necessary. And while Fields brings that challenge with his ability to run, he can also buy time to throw. DC Jim Schwartz said that they not only have to cover through the timing of the pass, but also cover on extended plays.

"He can throw those individual routes on the outside part of the field, and he does have strength and speed to be able to run," DC Jim Schwartz said about Fields. "They're highly ranked as a run offense, but he's dangerous in the passing game just because of his mobility and to be able to find guys later down the field and stuff like that. We have certain schemes that we run against scrambling quarterbacks, and we've used those at different times over the course of the year we'll probably break some of those out in this game."

Not only does that present a challenge in and of itself, but also with the injuries that the Browns are dealing with at the moment, especially on the defensive side of the ball. But Schwartz believes in those that will fill in.

"We have a lot of confidence in the guys that will get in there and play for us," Schwartz said. "(DE) Isaiah McGuire has played and made plays for us when he played, forced an interception. (DT) Siaki (Ika) hasn't played yet, but I have great confidence that he'll play well. It's really just been a numbers game for him. It has nothing to do with his availability and him being ready because he's ready to play, he's ready to contribute, and that's what this game is. Get an opportunity and make the most of it. So excited for those guys."

Is Joe Flacco going to start for the rest of the season? – Cody Staples, Chagrin Falls, OH

Yes, Flacco will start the remainder of the season.  He was also officially signed to the active roster on Thursday, which was on the docket to do so after he was named their starting quarterback.

Stefanski named Flacco the starting quarterback for the remainder of the season following their 31-27 win over the Jaguars. Flacco threw for 311 passing yards and three touchdowns. In his first two games with the Browns, Flacco has looked poised and in control at the helm of the Browns offense and will only continue to grow comfortable as each week passes.

The Browns hold a high level of belief in Flacco as the helm of their offense. In his first two games, Flacco has completed 49 of 89 passes for 565 yards and five touchdowns. Van Pelt said Flacco continues to get into a groove in their offense and is confident in the play calls. He sees the field well and has the ability to be accurate at all three levels.

"I think it shows Joe how much confidence we have in him in the pass game," Van Pelt said. "I think that's the key part there. You're going to play differently each week. Just so happens the last two weeks, we felt like we had some good matchups in the past game. That changes week to week. But obviously we feel confident with his ability to make decisions and read the field and make the throws."

There's an in-depth piece here that I wrote on Flacco following that news on Sunday if you want to read more!