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Pettine: It's on Browns to stop run-heavy Rams from attacking weakness

Mike Pettine laid it out Wednesday in no uncertain terms.

The Browns coach knows how the Rams, fresh off a bye week and playing in front of their home fans, view Sunday's matchup.

St. Louis has gone from the league's worst rushing offense to No. 21 thanks to the return of star rookie running back Todd Gurley. The Browns, after allowing 152 rushing yards to the Broncos this past week, are 32nd of 32 teams in the NFL at stopping the run.

It's on the Browns to prevent how the matchup plays out on paper from happening Sunday, Pettine said.

"I think they're certainly going to see this as a matchup of their strength against our weakness, and we're well aware of that," Pettine said. "We have to have a great week of prep and that's got to carry over to the field. We've got to be able to execute when it comes to defending the run.

"If we don't go out there wanting to stop the run and wanting to play that street fight with them up front -- because that's what they're built to do -- we'll get embarrassed defending the run. Our guys have to be locked in and that has to be the No. 1 priority for those guys up front."

The Rams, whose starting offensive line includes two rookies, failed to rush for more than 76 yards in each of their first three games. Everything changed Week 4, though, as Gurley bounced back from a 9-yard NFL debut against the Steelers with 146 on just 19 carries in an upset win at Arizona. He followed with 159 on 30 carries in a game in which St. Louis hung around with undefeated Green Bay at Lambeau Field.

Gurley, the No. 9 pick in this past year's draft who spent his offseason recovering from a severe knee injury, is 16th in the league in rushing despite missing the first two weeks and having a bye Week 6. He's still looking for his first NFL touchdown.

"From just a pure football grade, he's proven it already," Pettine said. "He's a special back."

The Browns are coming off a Week 6 performance that saw them minimize some of the bigger runs that hurt them in previous games, but still allow too many runs of 5 or more yards than they'd prefer. Denver picked up just six of its 21 first downs via the run, but the Broncos used their ground game to gain yards in pivotal situations, such as their game-winning scoring drive in overtime.

Stopping the run has been an emphasis all season, and the latest results haven't deterred the Browns' mindset.

"It is probably the biggest issue that we deal with here and I know there were some growing pains going to a new system and having new faces in the front seven again this year, but it is something we will always emphasize and always strive to be better," Pettine said. "I truly believe when you can stop the run when you want to then that is going to open up so much more for your pass rush and your ability to defend it."

The best photos of the week, featuring highlights from the game on Sunday, the halftime recognition of Mack and Byner, and the community event on Tuesday.

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