Dread This: Titans Up Next
Albert Haynesworth (Getty)

Posted Dec 1, 2008


The Browns, who have gone without a touchdown for two straight games, now face a team with a tough run defense and a tendency to swipe the ball.

 

The Browns will have to protect the ball against one of the best ball-hawking teams in the NFL when they visit the Titans in Nashville on Sunday.

The Titans have 25 takeaways in 12 games -- 17 interceptions and eight fumble recoveries.

The Browns are down to third-string quarterback Ken Dorsey. Derek Anderson was knocked out of a 10-6 loss to the Colts with a sprained MCL. Last week, Brady Quinn was placed on injured reserve with a broken right index finger.

Along with protecting the ball, the Browns have to improve in the red zone. Last year, they were inside the 20 a total of 55 times through 16 games. They scored 30 touchdowns, a success rate of 54.5 percent, good for 12th in the league. They ranked 29th heading into the 12th weekend this season.

They were in the red zone three times against the Colts and scored only two field goals. This year they have scored only 14 touchdowns in 37 red-zone chances.

"We have to have a higher sense of urgency when we get to the 20 in," left guard Eric Steinbach said. "We have to rise up to the occasion. For whatever reason, we don't have that rhythm we had last year.

"There are a bunch of variables. Guys have gotten hurt. We miss Joe Jurevicius. No one talks about that. He was as solid as anyone can get as far as having a veteran who could run and catch the ball but also block."

Jurevicius is missing the 2008 season because of complications from a staph infection following knee surgery in January. Last season, he caught 50 passes -- 29 of them on third down. The Browns do not have anyone close to that this year.

When Steinbach was explaining the difference between the lineup last year and this year, he seemed ready to include the absence of veteran offensive lineman Ryan Tucker, but he stopped short, perhaps because Tucker's replacement, Rex Hadnot, dresses around the corner from Steinbach in the locker room. Tucker, who started the last eight games of 2007 at right guard, is on injured reserve recovering from knee surgery.

Jamal Lewis has been calling for offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski to call more running plays, but the Titans play stout run defense. In their Thanksgiving Day game against the Lions, the Titans allowed only 23 yards rushing.

Lewis ran 24 times against the Colts and was held to 77 yards. He is still looking for his first 100-yard game of 2008.

"I love the fact (Lewis) wants to run the ball every play," Chudzinski said. "If we had a running back that didn't want to run the ball every play I would be a little bit concerned.

"By the same token, we have a bunch of other guys that want us throwing the ball every play. My job is to find that balance for us to be successful. When you lose and when you're not doing well, the competitive nature of guys is going to come out."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Last year we were good (in the red zone). This year we've been inconsistent. There were opportunities to get some scores. We failed on them for whatever reason." -- Browns coach Romeo Crennel, on going 0-for-3 against the Colts in the red zone.

BY THE NUMBERS: 0 -- touchdowns scored by the Browns in the last two games.

 

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--RB Jason Wright led the Browns in receptions against the Colts with three catches for 18 yards.

--CB Brandon McDonald intercepted a pass intended for Reggie Wayne.

--QB Derek Anderson completed 16 of 26 passes for 110 yards before leaving the game with a sprained MCL with 1:16 to play.

--TE Kellen Winslow Jr. left with an ankle injury in the third quarter and did not return.

--Special teams star Josh Cribbs was held to 61 yards on three kick returns.


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