The Cleveland Browns will try again to start a winning streak this Sunday when they host the Los Angeles Chargers at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Browns will also look to remain unbeaten along the shores of Lake Erie this season.
The Browns may have to call on the rally possum to make another appearance this Sunday.
“Please put that possum out there on Sunday,” head coach Hue Jackson said. “If that is what it is, then let’s find a whole bunch of them and stick them in the stands.”
“I thought that it was funny. I just saw it a couple of days ago,” defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said. “So I grew up hunting those things and had to eat them (laughter). I grew up on a farm, and we had to do those types of things.
The Browns have made a rally possum available for fans at the team shop at FirstEnergy Stadium if you are superstitious.
The Chargers make their first trip to Cleveland since they relocated from San Diego following the 2016 season. They would like to forget their last visit to the shores of Lake Erie. The Chargers left Cleveland on Christmas Eve 2016 as the only team to lose to the 1-15 Browns that season.
The dawg pound has been a difficult place for the Chargers to play. The Browns has won the last two meetings in Cleveland, 2012 and 2016. The Chargers have not won in Cleveland since December 6, 2009.
“It is a great fan base. It is a great, kind of an old-school NFL atmosphere,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. “Obviously, there is always potential for weather elements, as well. Most importantly, this football team is playing good football. Shoot, a couple of plays here and there from having won them all. It will be a heck of a challenge.”
Both offenses and defenses have performed well in the first five weeks of the season. The game could come down to which team makes that key play late in the football game.
“We loved the fact that he fell to us,” Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said of James. “We did not think that he would be there. He was a guy that could play anywhere to be honest with you. There were conversations about him playing linebacker, maybe. He could play in the box. He can play in the middle of the field. If you had to, I believe that you could put him out at corner. He is just a heck of an athlete.”
“He obviously has good ball skills,” Rivers said of Ward. “If he gets an opportunity, he has made the play on it. It seems to be clear on things, too, that he is pretty savvy back there for a young player. He is not just, ‘Oh, I am playing my coverage and I have my zone.’ He does a nice job of filling the route concepts that are coming to him and reacting and reading the quarterback. He certainly has shown himself worthy of that high pick here in these first five weeks.”
Both teams can also run the football. Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson and Nick Chubb have to do their part in keeping the offense on the field. The Browns defense will have its hands full with one the NFL’s best running backs, the Chargers Melvin Gordon.
“Gordon is a physical runner,” Jackson said. “He is a downhill, get after it, get behind you pads [runner], but he has good lateral quickness. This will be a good matchup for our defense.”
Baker Mayfield will be without some familiar faces in the passing game. Rashard Higgins and Derrick Willies are out. Damion Ratley and the newly signed Breshad Perriman are in. Mayfield has to avoid James in the secondary. Baker gets a break with no Joey Bosa, the former Ohio State Buckeye on the Chargers defensive line. Melvin Ingram will look to sack the number one overall pick.
“We will see what they will try to do to a rookie quarterback,” Mayfield said. They are playing well and getting to the quarterback. Obviously, you have to keep your eyes on where No. 54 (DE Melvin Ingram III) is – allowing him to get different pass rushing looks, moving him around the ball. We just have to stay in tune, similar to last week’s game plan of we just have to follow our rules when they are trying to mix up their looks.
”I think he is one of the better players in the league at his position,” Jackson said. “He can rush the passer – we all know that – as well as anybody. He can play the run. (Ingram) can cover people. He intercepts balls at the goal line. He has done it all in his career. That is why he is considered one of the best.”
As for the Browns defense. Myles Garrett has to get lots of pressure on Rivers. Garrett hopes to record his first sack of the future Hall of Fame Chargers quarterback.
“Intelligent. He knows how to read defenses,” Garrett said. “That is what keeps you in the game. Once your athleticism starts to dip, your football IQ and your knowledge of the game has to increase. It just keeps you one step ahead. The athleticism had you when you first began. He has been able to keep up with that and he has been impressive. So we just have to make sure that he can’t beat us and that we are one step ahead of him.”
The Browns are a one and a half point favorite at home. A key reason why the Browns have an advantage is due to the 1 p.m. kickoff. West coast teams tend to struggle when they play a 1 p.m. game in the eastern time zone. A loud crowd at FirstEnergy Stadium certainly won’t hurt the Browns chances for a victory.
“Obviously, the fans want to see us win,” wide receiver Jarvis Landry said. “It is always good to cheer for your team when they are winning. So for us, we have to try to find a way to execute at a high level and feed off of the energy from the crowd.”
CBS sports will broadcast the game. Spero Dedes and Adam Archuleta will call the game. If you can’t see the game on television, the Browns radio network broadcast can be heard on Sirius XM satellite radio. Sirius subscribers need to tune into channel 146. XM subscribers need to tune into channel 228. In addition, streaming service is available online on channel 807.