The Browns are not at full strength on defense and will have to deal with a fun, frisky and productive Falcons offense in Week 4. This will be a time for the young players on the defensive line to step up and for the Browns offense to continue its strong start.
This is a very tough matchup, but the Browns have a clear path to victory, and we will outline it now in this week's winning mix.
1. Control the Game on the Ground
When you have to deal with a high-octane offense without Myles Garrett, possibly Jadeveon Clowney and other defensive starters, sometimes the best strategy is to just keep their offense on the sidelines. The Browns boast the No. 1 rushing offense in the NFL, led of course by the league's leading rusher Nick Chubb and his backfield mate, Kareem Hunt.
The Browns are picking up 191 yards rushing per game this year. The effectiveness of the running game and the team's efficiency on both third and fourth downs have allowed them to possess the ball for a league leading 35-plus minutes per game. Feeding Chubb and Hunt, while keeping the clock running, should enable the Browns to shorten this game and give their banged up defense a breather against the Falcons. It could also disrupt the rhythm of the Atlanta offense, one that has the No. 5 rushing offense itself and is used to possessing the ball for more than 30 minutes each game. Playing keep away is smart and when you can do that with Chubb and Hunt, it is even better for your ability to get a tough win on the road.
Check out photos of players and coaches working to prepare for the teams regular season game against the Atlanta Falcons
2. Force Turnovers
The Browns have three takeaways in three games this year, but one was the fluky fumble recovery touchdown on the final play against the Steelers. They have not generated multiple takeaways in a single game yet this season, and there would be no better time for their first such game than against Atlanta. The Falcons already have seven giveaways this year and have had at least two turnovers in every game they have played.
The turnovers have been the Falcons Achilles' heel in 2022, and the Browns defense needs to capitalize. Marcus Mariota has thrown three interceptions and has lost three fumbles already this year, so the chances are bound to be there for the Browns. The Browns have forced nine fumbles already this year, but have only recovered two of them. If they can get to the ball when the Falcons put it on the ground, they should have a few chances to make game changing takeaways and key a Browns win.
3. Stingy on the Early Downs
The Falcons Offensive success has been due, in large part, to their success on first down. Atlanta has gained four-plus yards on 59.1 percent of their first down plays this year, which was second-best in the NFL heading into Week 4. Their ability to run it with Cordarrelle Patterson, who is averaging a league-leading 6.2 yards per carry has made them a very dangerous play-action passing team as well. In fact, 47 percent of Marcus Mariota's passing attempts have come on play action passes, the highest rate in the league by a mile.
When throwing with play action, Mariota is completing 71 percent of his passes and averaging a whopping 10.2 yards per attempt. The Browns must figure out a way to get the Falcons behind the sticks and into obvious drop back passing situations. When Mariota throws without the benefit of play action, his completion percentage drops to 55 percent, he averages just 6.0 yards per attempt, and he has thrown two interceptions. The Browns defense must get the Falcons into those obvious passing situations so Joe Woods can cook up some pressures to make Mariota throw into tight windows or take some big sacks that will lead to a Browns win.