As has been the theme early in the 2022 season, the Browns let one get away down in Atlanta. Last time they suffered a tough defeat, they showed great resilience with a dominating win over the Pittsburgh Steelers at home.
This week, they need to do the same against the high-flying Los Angeles Chargers to get back above .500 and stay atop the AFC North.
1. Control the Game on the Ground
This one is the same as last week, and it's critically important even though it appears that the Browns will be back at full strength on defense with the returns of Myles Garrett, Jadeveon Clowney and Taven Bryan. Still, the best defense is often a ball control offense, and it would absolutely behoove the Browns to keep the league's leading passer, Justin Herbert, on the sidelines as much as possible on Sunday. The Browns boast the No. 2 rushing offense in the NFL, led of course by the league's second-leading rusher Nick Chubb and his backfield mate, Kareem Hunt.
Last year, Chubb and Hunt combined for 39 touches that produced 259 total yards (222 rushing) and three total touchdowns against the Chargers in that 47-42 shootout. I'd love to see that type of a game-plan and success again on Sunday. After all, the Chargers are allowing a league-worst 7.8 yards per carry on runs outside of the tackles and the Browns are the best outside running team in the league, with Chubb already producing a league high 384 yards and four scores on such runs. 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, and that would do wonders against the Chargers. Playing keep away is smart, and when you can do that with Chubb and Hunt, it's even better for your ability to secure a much needed win in Week 5.
Check out photos of players and coaches working to prepare for the teams regular season game against the Los Angeles Chargers
2. Pressure Justin Herbert
Justin Herbert is as prolific a quarterback as any in the NFL today, and the only way to slow him down is with pressure. Herbert enters the game with a league-leading 1,250 passing yards with nine touchdowns and only two interceptions. He has an uncanny ability to get rid of the ball quickly and has only taken four sacks on the season, fewest in the league. When operating from a clean pocket, Herbert completes 75 percent of his passes, averages 8.4 yards per attempt, has thrown nine touchdown passes and has a quarterback rating of 124. In other words, no pressure will be no bueno.
The Browns will count on Myles and Clowney against a line starting two rookies, including a sixth-rounder at left tackle who will be making only his second NFL start. Pressure is so critical, because when under duress this year, Herbert is completing just 51 percent of his passes, averaging 5.9 yards per attempt with no touchdowns, one interception and a quarterback rating of just 62. Turning up the heat will really help the Browns backend against this explosive, big-play offense and could thwart Herbert's bid to throw for 300-plus yards for an NFL record eight straight game on the road this Sunday.
3. Clean Sheet and Finish Drives
The Browns are 11-2 under Kevin Stefanski all time when they don't commit a single turnover, and they are 2-0 this year with a clean sheet. The Chargers are too good on offense to waste any of our possessions, and they're too explosive to give them extra possessions or a short field to operate on.
When the Browns do protect the ball and move it down the field, they have to finish with points — and obviously more touchdowns than field goals. Last week, the Browns produced just 10 points on three Red Zone trips against the Falcons, and that will not cut it against the Chargers. Everyone has to be at their best in scoring situations because if last year is any indication, the Browns are going to need to score a lot to win this game.