News

Cleveland Browns lean on leadership and poise for road game against Titans

576_dawgpoundjournal_away.jpg

It's been almost a month since the Cleveland Browns' last road game took place against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.

The yellow Terrible Towels and the screaming Pittsburgh faithful amplified the Browns' downward spiral in the first half. But the last 30 minutes of the game were a different story. Brian Hoyer, Isaiah Crowell, Terrance West and the rest of the Browns offense were able to move the football with such ease it silenced the crowd, something that without a doubt helped halt all of the Steelers' momentum.

Hoyer has one signature road win in his seven career NFL starts. In last season's Week 3 win against the Vikings, the quarterback threw for 321 yards and three touchdowns, in the rowdy Metrodome atmosphere. With 3:21 left in the fourth quarter, Hoyer led a game-winning drive, marching 55 yards in 11 plays. A touchdown lob to Jordan Cameron with 51 seconds remaining wrapped up a Browns victory. 

Hoyer's fondness for playing on the road began at Michigan State. His former coach Mark D'Antonio used to tell the quarterback playing away from home is all about 'weathering the storm.' Hoyer did just that in monumental wins at Notre Dame and at Michigan over the course of his college career.

The stage is bigger now that he's in the NFL, but Hoyer's know-how in dealing with the pressure on the road will come in handy this Sunday at Tennessee.

"There are going to be moments where their crowd is into it," Hoyer said at his locker on Wednesday. "There are some tough moments for you, but you've just got to weather the storm and ride it out and know that it's a 60-minute game and play for the long-run. I think we've shown that we're mentally capable of doing that and mentally tough. You've just got to deal with the ups and downs and play a smart football game."

There is no secret formula for winning on the road. Coach Mike Pettine has seen some organizations get wrapped up in the travel itinerary and the food schedule, when he really thinks it boils down to staying mentally strong.

"It's truly you against an entire stadium filled with the opposing team's fans," said Pettine. "I think you have to be very poised. You have to be focused. You have to understand that it's a long game and you're going to face some adversity."

The Browns remaining road games only get tougher as the season goes on, which makes Sunday's game all the more imperative. Pettine wants his squad to build the confidence that is necessary for the upcoming trials and tribulations. In November, Cleveland will travel to Cincinnati for a Thursday Night game. Following a home game against Houston there are trips to Atlanta and Buffalo. And the final two games to close the season are both in hostile places to play – Carolina and Baltimore.

Teams change from year-to-year so much, that it's vital to strike when the iron is hot – meaning an early road win in the schedule could have a snowball effect. If the Browns beat the Titans, they'll travel to Jacksonville in two weeks without a cloud of doubt they can take care of business.

But winning away from FirstEnergy Stadium is a process. It starts Sunday in Nashville.

"You just have to make sure that your guys can stay focused through it, stay together, that 'Hey, listen," said Pettine. "We've got to have each other's backs on this one because we are all that we have.' I think that's critical."

**

Video: Mic'd up against the Ravens

Three things I wonder

I wonder … if Miles Austin will have a breakout game against the Titans? Cornerbacks Jason McCourty and Blidi Wreh-Wilson are one of the leagues less acclaimed duos. Last week, both Colts receivers (Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton) posted 100 yards each. McCourty is the more experienced player of the pair and has two interceptions in 2014. But it seems there will be opportunities to get Austin the football in space.  

I wonder … who will step on the defensive line? Any time a team has issues stopping the run, it generally starts up front. The defensive coaches have been adamant that the chunk yardage has been a product of the overall defense. Still, elevated performances from Ahtyba Rubin, Phil Taylor, Billy Winn and Armonty Bryant are needed against Tennessee.

I wonder … if Donte Whitner will play more loudly. The veteran safety has had an effective season thus far – Pettine told reporters all of Whitner's grade sheets are normally full of plus-signs. But we've yet to see a patented bone-crushing hit over the middle or a timely turnover from Whitner. A big play like that on the road can sometimes make all the difference.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content

Advertising