By Tony Grossi
What: Browns (4-8) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (2-10), 1 p.m., in Cleveland Browns Stadium.
TV: WOIO-TV 19 with Bill Macatee and Steve Tasker.
The set-up: The Chiefs arrive after an emotional win the day after linebacker Jovan Belcher shot dead his girlfriend and mother of their 3-month-old daughter and then took his own life with a shot to his head in front of coach Romeo Crennel, GM Scott Pioli and defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs. The Chiefs remembered Belcher at a private memorial service on Wednesday. The Browns have won two in a row and are in their best team health all year.
Series history: Tied, 10-10-2.
Historical footnote: On Nov. 19, 1989, Marty Schottenheimer, the most successful Browns coach since Blanton Collier, returned for the first time as an opposing coach. He brought a 4-6 Chiefs team to Cleveland Municipal Stadium. The barren field was made mushy by a weekend rain. The Browns lost four fumbles, including two by Mike Oliphant, the player acquired in a one-on-one deal for Schottenheimer-favorite Earnest Byner. The Chiefs blew three chances to win it when kicker Nick Lowery choked three times on field goals – twice with 10 seconds left in regulation (there was a Cleveland penalty and re-kick) and once in overtime. After the game, lovable Browns coach Bud Carson, Schottenheimer’s successor, sighed, “It was a tough game to lose, obviously.” My game story lead in The Plain Dealer the next morning focused on Schottenheimer’s return: “He came. He saw. He tied.” It was the last Browns’ game to end in a tie.
Chiefs update: Not they needed proof of it, but the Chiefs didn’t commit a turnover last week – and they won. Imagine that. After averaging nearly three turnovers a game in their first 11 games, they protected the ball, built a lead, and protected it. Seems like a plan. This is a team with more talent on both sides of the ball than its win total indicates. The defense alone starts five No. 1 picks and two No. 2s. The 3-4 alignment has two pass rushers at outside linebacker in Tamba Hali and Justin Houston and a 346-pound run plugger in the middle in rookie Dontari Poe. The talent drops off on offense, but it includes a running back who can score from any place on the field in Jamaal Charles and a solid No. 1 receiver in Dwayne Bowe. Mediocre play at quarterback has been a problem, but ex-Brown Brady Quinn put everything together last week and had the game of his lifetime. Can he do it again?
Browns update: They are healthy and hungry. For the first time all season, the entire roster of 53 players was able to practice the full week. The defense is coming off three consecutive games of limiting opponents to under 90 yards rushing. In that span, it also has produced a seven-sack game and an eight-turnover game. Although the offense generated a five-year high 475 total yards in Oakland last week, that side of the ball has produced 30 or more points only one time in 28 games under coach Pat Shurmur. To say it’s overdue is an understatement. Given the remaining schedule, this may be the last chance for a scoring outburst. Brimming with confidence, the offense does seem poised to produce a big game.
Injury report: Browns – None. Chiefs – S Abe Elam (quad) is doubtful; OT Brandon Albert (back), OG Jeff Allen (illness), S Eric Berry (hand), CB Brandon Flowers (hamstring), OG Russ Hochstein (back), LB Derrick Johnson (hamstring), S Kendrick Lewis (shoulder) are questionable.
Our take: There are no excuses here for the Browns not to put away a home win comfortably. Regardless of the Chiefs’ emotional and mental state following a harrowing 10-day period recovering from a tragedy in their family, the Browns are in the right physical and mental health to realize their potential and play a complete game on defense and offense for the first time this year.
Prediction: Browns, 23-13.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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