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The Winning Mix

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The Winning Mix: 3 keys to a victory over the Carolina Panthers  

Browns look to open the season with a Week 1 win on the road in Carolina 


We all know that it has been a long time since the Browns opened the regular season with a win, so let's take a look at the path to victory in this important game.

1. Pound the Rock

The Jacoby Brissett era begins this Sunday and nothing helps a quarterback like a dominant ground game. The Browns must unleash Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt and pound the Panthers on the ground in what is expected to be inclement weather this Sunday. Two years ago, Chubb and Hunt became just the fourth tandem in NFL history to accumulate 1,200-plus total yards and 12-plus touchdowns in the same season. Last year Chubb was second in the NFL in rushing and Hunt produced 522 total yards and five touchdowns in the first six games of the year. The Browns are significantly bigger up front than the Panthers who start undersized defensive ends in Brian Burns (250) and Yetur Gross-Matos (260) pounds. After all, Carolina was the 4th ranked pass defense last year, but ranked 18th against the run. The Browns should be able to run right at the edges and impose their will, which should create opportunities for big plays in the play action and boot games once the Panthers have to start committing their safeties to the box in an attempt to stop Chubb and Hunt. So feed them the rock 30-plus times and let the Browns unbelievably talented duo run wild on Carolina en route to a punishing victory.

Check out photos of players and coaches working to prepare for the teams first regular season game against the Carolina Panthers Sunday

2. Pressure Bursts Pipes!

The Browns generate pressure at one of the highest rates in the NFL, led by Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney, who combined for 25 sacks in 2021. Garrett sits just four sacks shy of setting the Browns franchise record and something tells me he would love to accomplish that feat in Week 1 against the Panthers and a very familiar quarterback. Let's not forget that Myles set the franchise record for sacks in a single game last year against the Chicago Bears with 4.5, so it is not out of the question to get it done on Sunday.

Helping matters for Myles and company is that the Panthers are starting rookie first rounder Ickey Ekwonu at left tackle and LG Brady Christensen will be making his first ever start at that position. With an entirely new left side of the line, look for the Browns to really turn up the heat on the blind side of quarterback Baker Mayfield. When under pressure, Mayfield completed just 41 percent of his passes and became prone to throwing interceptions. In fact, no one has thrown more interceptions than Mayfield's 56 since entering the league in 2018. The Browns generate pressure on 35 percent of the plays in which Garrett and Clowney are on the field together, which is an elite mark. Conversely, no quarterback in the NFL sees more of his pressures result in sacks than Mayfield. The Browns can turn up the heat on Mayfield and generate a bevy of negative plays, which will lead to a dominant performance from a defense that has its sights set on being the best in the NFL in 2022.

3. Fast Start

In a Game One that feels a little bigger than usual, its imperative for the Browns to get off to a fast start. The challenge is real however, as the Panthers were the only team in the NFL that did not allow a single touchdown on an opponent's opening drive in 2021. That being said, the Browns need to find a way to get the early lead either on offense or with say a pick six and force the Panthers to become a drop back passing team on offense. After all, you could say it's a race to 15 points for the Browns and it would be great to be well on the way early in the game. In 2021, the Panthers were 5-0 when holding their opponent under 15 points. They were a shocking 0-12 when the opposition scored 15 or more points, and were the only team in the NFL to be winless in such games. So let's come out of the gate quickly, set the tone for the game and get on the perfect path to victory for a team that is built to dominate on the ground and play great defense with the lead.

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