Dawg Days is a weekly feature by Chris McNeil on the Cleveland Browns. The Three Deep section tackles facets of the Browns’ upcoming game from all sides — advantages, disadvantages, and a final view on the contest.
“I’m told the replay of Nick Chubb getting injured is not to be seen.” -Joe Buck, ABC MNF Broadcast
For a Browns organization and fan base so used to disappointment and heartbreak, what happened Monday night still seemed unfathomable — a gruesome knee injury that ended running back Nick Chubb’s season.
Amongst all the ups and downs of the Cleveland Browns over the last six years there was one constant drumbeat: Nicholas Jamaal Chubb.
Whether it was the Browns riding high with Baker Mayfield or blowing leads with defensive coordinator Joe Woods; missing extra points or switching QBs, the one steady hand at the till was Chubb.
He embodies the entire city – a head-down, lunchpail attitude and aversion toward causing waves in the locker room, or even saying anything at all. He was solely focused on his craft. He drove this team.
That’s what makes what happened Monday so tragic. In a time where everything is cliché in sports, Chubb stood out as the true heart and soul of the franchise. He was resilient and reliable for coach Kevin Stefanski and gave Deshaun Watson a sorely needed easy button for making the offense go.
So it is with that depressing note that we turn our focus to the Tennessee Titans at home on Sunday in our weekly ‘Three Deep’ edition.
This is a very interesting matchup on paper, especially with the Chubb injury. Tennessee is only giving up 65 yards per game on the ground — fourth in the league. On the other hand, they are fifth worst in the league against the pass, giving up over 280 ypg.
This sets it up for Deshaun Watson, who has looked awful so far, to finally move the team and get back into his All-Pro form of 2020. Assuming Amari Cooper doesn’t have any lingering injury problems, Watson will have the full arsenal of receivers alongside TE David Njoku to exploit the sieve that is the Tennessee pass defense.
On the defensive side of the ball the Browns continue to be dominant. The Pittsburgh offense scored only 12 points against Jim Schwartz’ crew. One telling stat was the Steelers netted a minus-7 yards in the fourth quarter, needing T.J. Watt’s scoop-6 to win the games.
Further, the Steelers never ran a play in the red zone and were 4/14 on third-down conversions.
The main problem was Pittsburgh’s explosives. They gained 202 yards on seven plays, while their other 46 plays netted 53 yards. If the Browns can limit the home run ball against the Titans, it should be a long day for Tennessee head coach Mike Vrabel.
There is no way around it. The loss of Chubb sent shockwaves that will reverberate through the AFC and NFL. The Browns lost their identity on offense, and Watson needs to step up to fill that void. So far, he’s been underwhelming — to be kind.
On top of that, he committed two face masking penalties (yes, two by a QB!) that cost the Browns and stalled drives. This is not the $230 million dollar man who was supposed to be the team leader. He needs to improve ASAP.
The Titans feature a fantasy darling in RB Derrick Henry. So far this season, he’s averaging only 3.6 yards per carry, far less than his 5.4 ypc average in 2020. He also has yet to rush for 100 yards in a game this year.
The Browns need to keep Henry bottled up and force QB Ryan Tannehill to throw the ball and inflict their dominant pass rush on him. If Henry gets it going, however, it could spell problems.
As we get up off the mat from the MNF disaster, the Browns can show perseverance and earn a bounce-back win at home Sunday. Watson must move the ball around to his receivers and leave capable RB Jerome Ford to swing for the fences and possibly bust a big play or two. The Titans defense lends itself to being picked apart by the passing game and it is time for Watson to produce.
It’s going to be another dust-yourself-off and get-back-in-there type of game, and it’s time for the Browns to put their hard hat on and pull out the win.
Prediction: Browns 27-17
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