Distractions? We don’t need no stinkin’ distractions.
The Cleveland Browns are fresh off its first win of the season, which was also its first win since Nov. 2011. So what has happened between last Sunday’s 34-24 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals and Sunday’s 1 p.m. kickoff at the Indianapolis Colts?
Oh, there’s been an ownership change, a team president announced he will retire at the end of the season and a new president and CEO was hired.
Other than that, it’s been all about football.
Luckily, the Browns play a Colts team that has one more win and similar issues, like a defense that cannot stop the run and a rookie at quarterback.
The Colts are ranked 29th in the league in rushing yards allowed. Last week, Indy allowed New York Jets’ Shonn Greene to rush 32 times for 161 yards and three touchdowns. Good news for Browns’ rookie running back Trent Richardson, right? Well, he is dealing with an injury to his rib cartilage. He will wear a flak jacket Sunday.
“They have a good defense and the (New York) Jets had a lot of success,” Richardson said. “We’ve got to make sure we do not the exact same thing as them, but we have to do something much better than what the Jets did to win this game.
“For us, we have to make sure we get a lot of penetration when we run through each gap we can get. We have to get what they give us.”
Richardson has 95 carries in six games to lead the Browns. The next closest is Montario Hardesty with 15 and he had 14 of those last week. Hardesty relieved the injured Richardson last Sunday and rushed for 56 yards and a touchdown. Because of his ribs, Richardson won’t approach Green’s 32 carries Sunday. That’s fine, the Browns displayed a successful blueprint last week.
A Richardson-Hardesty attack could prove problematic for the Colts’ defense. While Richardson is a more bruising style of runner, Hardesty flashed quickness last Sunday and the change-of-pace was difficult for the Bengals to defend.
In five games this season, the Colts allowed less than 100 yards only once.
Adding to the bolstered offense is the Browns’ receiver corps is getting healthy. Travis Benjamin and Mohamed Massaquoi are expected to play Sunday.
“It’s nice to have some familiar faces,” Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden said. “All of the guys, they are all back and that feels good. For them, I just wanted them to get back on the field because I know it’s not fun being in that training room. They want to be out here playing. It’s good to have those guys back.”
Finally, it comes down to a battle of rookie quarterbacks. The Colts’ Andrew Luck is showing flashes of brilliance while also displaying his rookie mistakes. In five games, Luck has completed 53. 4 percent of his passes for 1,488 yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.
By comparison, Weeden, who has played in six games, has completed 55.8 percent of his passes for 1,519 yards with seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Perhaps the biggest benefit to the Browns’ victory last week, wasn’t anything on offense, but the presence of cornerback Joe Haden. After missing four games for taking a banned substance, Haden returned and finished with six tackles, three passes defended and one interception.
“Everybody recognizes his talent level, his playmaking ability,” Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron said. “He does have, I guess to add to all the physical skills, he is tough. There’s a toughness involved there. He’s a willing tackler, he will hit you and that’s a big factor. That really helps us too. It was just great to have him back, and hopefully he’ll just get better and better every week.”
Haden’s top responsibility Sunday is expected to be Reggie Wayne, who has 41 catches for 593 yards and two touchdowns this season.
“We just have to challenge him and do the best we can against him try to change up,” Jauron said. “(He has been) a very productive guy throughout his whole career.”
If the Browns can run the ball and limit the Luck-to-Wayne’s effectiveness, a victory is within the Browns’ reach. Think about it: A two-game winning streak. It could happen.
Most importantly, it’d give us something else to talk about than Jimmy Haslam, team presidents and (potential) coaching changes. There’s a long offseason for that. We could actually focus on football.