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Bronco Rob
09-18-2009, 08:50 PM
Browns vs. Broncos key matchups

By Steve Doerschuk
CantonRep.com staff writer
Posted Sep 18, 2009 @ 09:27 PM

Here are the key matchups in Sunday’s game between the Cleveland Browns and Denver Broncos:

Broncos QB Kyle Orton vs. Browns red-zone defense

The Vikings were deadly in the red zone when it counted at Cleveland last Sunday. They got there twice in the fourth quarter and finished game-defining TD drives.

True, Minnesota’s Brett Favre knows what to do inside the 20 as well as anyone, but guess what? Only six NFL QBs — Favre not among them — have a better touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio inside the 20 in the last four years than Orton, who has 22 TDs and just two picks.

Orton was picked three spots after the Browns took Antonio Perkins in the 2005 draft. His record as a Bears starter was 22-12. There’s a certain moxie about him, and he has a nice stable of receivers. Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, Tony Scheffler Daniel Graham and Brandon Stokley caught 411 yards worth of Jay Cutler passes at Cleveland last year.

Re-tooled pass rushes

Defense was a dirty word in both Denver and Cleveland in 2008. The Broncos ranked 29th, allowing 374.6 yards a game. The Browns were only a bit better. Both teams had weak pass rushes, enabling opponents to sustain too many drives. Neither had anyone with more than five sacks. Both now have “name” coordinators — Denver’s Mike Nolan, Cleveland’s Rob Ryan — who won’t let that happen again.

Denver LB Andra Davis, who seldom blitzed in his seven years with the Browns, notched one of his team’s three sacks at Cincinnati. Nolan mixed run and pass blitzes, leading to three tackles for loss for Davis.

Ryan, likewise, mixed up Cleveland’s blitzes, allowing safeties Abe Elam and Brodney Pool to get sacks. Ryan is intent on casting NT Shaun Rogers and OLB Kamerion Wimbley in playmaker roles. Both of them moved around with encouraging results.

Broncos secondary vs. Browns receivers

Champ Bailey has spent the decade taking away opponents’ No. 1 wideouts. That likely means Braylon Edwards won’t do a whole lot better than one catch, his sum against Minnesota.

Whomever is matched against the other starting cornerback, 31-year-old journeyman André Goodman, needs to do damage. For what it’s worth, Brady Quinn threw a 20-yard TD pass to Joshua Cribbs the only other time he played at Denver, in the 2007 preseason. Quinn relied heavily on TE Robert Royal against Minnesota. Royal will try to out-run safety Brian Dawkins, who turns 35 next month.

Running backs vs. run defenses

Both teams have tandems that could surprise. Cleveland’s Jamal Lewis showed signs of life in the opener. Jerome Harrison rushed 48 yards on just five carries against Denver last year, and the new regime has some tricks up its sleeve for him.

Denver’s Correll Buckhalter (eight carries, 46 yards last Sunday) is a grinder who averaged 5.0 yards a carry as an Eagle the previous two seasons. Knowshon Moreno got nowhere in his NFL debut at Cincinnati (eight carries, 19 yards), but he was a No. 12 overall draft pick.

Denver’s rush defense contained Bengals back Cedric Benson (21 carries, 76 yards). Cleveland let Adrian Peterson out of the barn in the second half (155 of his 180 yards).

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