The Browns have plenty at stake once the football is kicked off at 8:20 p.m. Cleveland time Saturday night. Cleveland must win to keep any hopes of a playoff spot alive. It won’t be easy. The Broncos enter the contest at 6-7, but Denver is a very difficult place to play.
Longtime Browns fans remember ‘The Fumble’ by Earnest Byner in the 1987 AFC Championship game. That is 30-years ago. It has nearly been that long since the Browns won a game over the Broncos. Oct. 8, 1990 marks the last time Cleveland beat Denver. The Browns won 30-29 at Mile High.
The current Browns know how important a win against the Broncos means for the franchise.
“Like I said after the game, we have to take it one week at a time,” Baker Mayfield said. “This game obviously presents a great challenge considering Denver is in in that wild card race, as well. If we just take care of business one week at a time, it will handle the rest. We are trusting good things will happen after that.”
Mayfield will have quite a challenge Saturday night. The Broncos feature two of the best pass rushers in the game, Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. The Browns offensive line has not allowed a sack of Mayfield in the last three games. If the streak extends to four, the losing streak against the Broncos can end Saturday night.
“Intimidating front. So talented,” Mayfield said. “Obviously, Miller has his reputation for a reason. He has been doing is consistently for a while. Chubb has been playing great and playing great for a rookie. They have combined for over half of their sacks just the two of them. They allow their secondary to play aggressively, kind of like the Texans did. It kind of presents itself as that type of matchup.”
Starting tackles Greg Robinson and Chris Hubbard have to control the line of scrimmage from the first Browns offensive snap. Miller and Chubb will line up against each tackle at different times. It will be a tall task to keep both pass rushers away from Mayfield, but they are ready for the challenge.
“Bradley Chubb, he is a young guy,” Hubbard said. “He has a really good bull rush. He can lull you to sleep, as well as his pass rush moves. Von Miller, a crafty guy, one of those guys that you can’t go to sleep on. He is one of those guys that plays the game at a high level. He is quick. (Miller) comes off the ball pretty fast. He reacts off of what you do. You have to be careful of what you do as far as blocking guys.”
“They are great players,” Robinson said. “I feel like just looking at them on film a little bit, it is very obvious that they have good quickness off the ball and they do a lot of things well. I feel like you do not really need to change much. Just be aware of some of the things that they are. They have good strengths in them.”
Denzel Ward will miss his second straight game due to a concussion. The Broncos passing game is its weak link due to the loss of Emmanuel Sanders. Case Keenum has come back to earth as an NFL quarterback after his breakout 2017 season with the Minnesota Vikings. The big test for the Browns defense is to contain rookie running back Phillip Lindsay.
“It is everything. I think their offense runs heavily on him,” defensive back T.J Carrie said. “It is not to say that they are not talented elsewhere, but when you have a good running back and a good run game, that opens up so many more things – the play action pass, the boot legs. All of those things are determined off of the run game. They have been very excellent and have excelled with giving him the ball in different positions, creating separation from the linebacker and front four and really allow him to work out in space. So that is going to be definitely a big key to the game.”
The Browns are a three point underdog to the Broncos. The game will be broadcast on NFL Network. Cleveland area viewers can also watch the game on WOIO, Channel 19. Mike Tirico, Kurt Warner and Peter Schrager will call the game.