In Week 13, the Browns will take on the Rams at SoFi Stadium after staying in Los Angeles the entire week. This will be the first time that Browns play the Rams at SoFi Stadium.
Here are three questions the Browns must answer to win on Sunday.
Will the Browns run the ball effectively?
Last week, before the Browns matchup against the Broncos, a burning question was asked if the Browns would run the ball effectively. This week, we ask that same question as the Browns run game didn't impact the game to their usual standard. For the first time this season, none of the running backs received double-digit attempts.
This week against the Rams, the coaching staff has to find ways to get the ball more to RB Jerome Ford and RB Kareem Hunt. The Browns have lost twice this season when they couldn't run the ball. Against the Ravens in Week 4, they rushed for 93 yards – but the majority of the big runs came in the fourth quarter when the game was out of hand.
When asked about why Ford only had nine carries against the Broncos, HC Kevin Stefanski mentioned that the run game will be relied upon moving forward.
"Yeah, I thought Jerome gave us some really good moments in the run game, in the pass game," Stefanski said. "Had a couple of nice plays there in a two-minute drive. We're going to count on him every single week. As you know, we like our running back room, and we like to share the ball, for sure."
In Week 13, the Browns will face a Rams run defense that has been inconsistent throughout the year. The Rams have allowed 1,246 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns this season, ranking 16th and 21st in the league, respectively.
They have had success in stopping the run in some games but allowed their opponents to rush for over 100 yards in other games. On average, they give up 4.2 yards per carry, which ranks 17th in the league.
Will the Browns play a cleaner game in Week 13?
The Browns frequently talk about the importance of playing a clean game. However, in Week 12, they struggled to play a clean game, as they defeated themselves with five fumbles – three of which they lost – and penalties. The Broncos scored 10 points off the turnovers.
"Clean can be an assignment, it can be your alignment, it can be your technique," Stefanski said. "And a lot of times that football, when you're not playing clean, it's a center-quarterback exchange. We had a quarterback- running back exchange. Decisions from the quarterback position when we catch that ball, a technique thing, putting it away. So, I think we hone in on those techniques, but we're just trying to play clean ball."
This whole season, taking care of the ball has been emphasized; however, the Browns have 23 turnovers this season, ranking second in the league.
The Browns also committed several penalties, as they had eight penalties for 66 yards, and two of those led to first downs for the Broncos. Yet, the penalties were a mixture of the Browns offense and defense. They can't play sloppy against the Rams, who have an offense that can put points on the board.
"Yeah, unfortunately, a lot of those defensive penalties negated some good plays, and that's the frustrating part that we have to clean up," Stefanski said. "We'll work very hard at the aligned offsides; those shouldn't happen, and we'll be better this week."
The Rams are one of the NFL's least penalized teams in the league. They average 5.8 penalties on the year, which is 12th best in the league. The Browns will have to stay disciplined throughout the game.
How will QB Joe Flacco do in his first start with the Browns?
The Browns have been facing a string of injuries to their quarterback room this season, leaving some uncertainty at different moments. During their Week 12 game against the Broncos, rookie QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson got injured, and P.J. Walker took over his position.
However, in Week 13, the Browns will turn to veteran QB Joe Flacco as their starting quarterback – who was signed to the Browns practice squad on Nov. 20.
Flacco will be going against a Rams defense that does not sack the quarterback often. They have 25 sacks this season, which is 23rd in the league. However, he will be going against DE Aaron Donald, who can disrupt an entire game plan at any point, even though he hasn't shown it consistently this season.
The team expects Flacco to transition smoothly in the lineup as they trust in his experience and like what they have seen from him at practice this week.
"Fortunate to have Joe (Flacco), who's an established veteran, has been in multiple systems that allows him to easily kind of translate his terms into our terms," OC Alex Van Pelt said. "There are some crossover terms he's used in different systems, so that definitely helps."