After a Monday night win on the road, the Browns return home Sunday for another primetime game. This time, the opponent carries a sparkling resume.
The defending NFC champion Los Angeles Rams come to town for a big Week 3 game in front of a national audience. To add to the challenge, the Browns are going to be without a few key players in a week in which the injury report resembled a large family’s grocery list by Friday.
Here are the three key ingredients that will help produce a winning mix for the Browns on Sunday night.
1. Force turnovers
The injury report puts the Browns at a slight disadvantage, but they are not at all doomed. They’ll just need to force some mistakes to tilt the field in their advantage.
The most bountiful of mistakes is a takeaway, and the Browns will need to record a couple of these in order to maximize their chances of success. Pressuring Jared Goff is key, but so is playing tight coverage. They’ll need to play complementary defense, a key focus of defensive coordinator Steve Wilks since he’s arrived, and hope that their stellar front four can cause Goff to deposit a throw or two into the arms of a Browns defender.
Remember Mack Wilson’s interception-heavy preseason? He’s expected to play this week in place of Christian Kirksey, who was placed on injured reserve Saturday with a chest injury. Perhaps No. 51 comes down with another turnover and gives the offense great field position. These types of plays will be necessary to score the upset at home.
2. Play disciplined football
Rams head coach Sean McVay is a master of creating mismatches and confusion at the line of scrimmage with a variety of motion and pre-snap looks. He’ll do plenty of this Sunday night.
The key for the Browns: Don’t fall for the traps.
Cleveland will need to play disciplined, sound fundamental football in order to both avoid penalties and also prevent the big play from happening. That means sticking to gap responsibility, run fits and maintaining contain. Forcing the Rams to take the short gain might help Los Angeles in the time of possession battle, but it will also lessen their chances of putting up plenty of points. A low-scoring game is one the Browns will want.
Check out photos from the three times the Browns have hosted Sunday Night Football since 1999
3. Ride the home crowd
Sunday night promises to be energetic. The national stage, the thrill of night football along the lake, and the halftime Ring of Honor induction of Clay Matthews will have Browns fans riled up. The players need to take their cue.
Every NFL player is motivated for a game, but there’s something special about one under the lights. The fans brought it in Week 1, arriving early and remaining loud for the majority of the contest. As defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said Friday, “the crowd was good the last time we were there, we just blew it.”
The energy of another riled-up Browns crowd in an important early-season game could help propel the team to a big win — as long as they keep their composure.