Browns have a shot against CowboysBy Ashley Powell
Sunday’s matchup between the Cleveland Browns and Dallas Cowboys looks like a snoozefest on the schedule, but it could be interesting. You have the Cowboys, at 4-5, looking to overtake the NFC East-rival New York Giants for first place. Then you have the Browns, 2-7, trying to climb out of the AFC North dungeon.
Keep hope alive
It’s the first of three consecutive home games for the Cowboys, with the possibility they will face rookie quarterbacks in each.
Browns rookie QB Brandon Weeden is not having a dream season. He’s been asked to lead a franchise that’s only had two winning seasons since 1999. Weeden has completed 48.4 percent of his passes with zero touchdowns and two interceptions in the last two games after throwing six touchdowns in the previous three. The team is ranked 28th in passing TDs with nine.
Luckily for Weeden, the Dallas secondary is not the most opportunistic, with four interceptions. But the Cowboys have only surrendered nine TDs through the air. Keep an eye on Browns rookie wide receiver Josh Gordon, who likely will be matched against rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne.
Rookie running back Trent Richardson is expected to carry the load for the Browns despite a lingering rib injury. He fully participated in practice on Thursday and could give the Cowboys fits as a dual-threat. He’s rushed for 575 yards and five touchdowns and added 240 receiving yards and a score.
If the Browns play like they have nothing to lose on both sides of the ball, they have a chance to pull off the upset in Big D.
Counting eggs before they hatch
For every Cowboys fan, the Browns are exactly the type of team you love to see starting off a three-game home stretch. But Dallas in recent years has been known to play down to the level of competition. The Cowboys had a scare in Week 7 against the Carolina Panthers, 1-4 at the time. They scored one touchdown and had to rely on the foot of second-year kicker Dan Bailey, who hit four field goals in a 19-14 win.
The Cowboys’ inability to put teams away has been their downfall. The offense seems content with just doing the bare minimum to win. Most of the blame falls on head coach and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, who doesn’t fit the stereotype of a “fiery redhead,” more resembling Opie Taylor.
Veteran quarterback Tony Romo must use this game as redemption for his poor performances during the first half of the season. Romo will have the luxury of going against the 23rd-ranked pass defense.
The quarterback could get some help from the team’s anemic running game with the possible return of Demarco Murray. He’s missed four games with a sprained foot and is likely a game-time decision.
The Browns rank 27th against the run, allowing an average of 132.2 yards. So whether it’s Murray or backup running back Felix Jones, Dallas should have the upper hand in the running game.
A little history
The Browns lead the all-time series 17-12. Believe it or not, there was a time in the late 1960s when the Browns owned the Cowboys, winning nearly every big game. That period is lamented in Cowboy lore as simply “the Cleveland years,” back when quarterback Don Meredith couldn’t go to a restaurant without being booed.
But that was a long time ago and now the Cowboys need to give their fans something to cheer about in the Jerry Dome and snap a two-game home losing streak. As for the Browns, they will be trying to snap an 11-game road losing streak.
Dallas has won the last two matchups, in 2004 and 2008.
Get your popcorn ready.