banner

NFL

more stats

31
Final 1234Score
Cleveland7170731
Minnesota7107327
Preview | Matchup | Log | Wrap | Box
27


NFL Preview - Cleveland (0-2) at Minnesota (0-2)



By John McMullen, NFL Editor

(Sports Network) - It figures to be a bit of a "Desperation Bowl" in the Land of 10,000 Lakes this week when the 0-2 Cleveland Browns face off with the wildly disappointing and winless Minnesota Vikings

The Browns will welcome speedy wide receiver Josh Gordon back from suspension but will be without starting quarterback Brandon Weeden, who injured the thumb on his throwing hand in the team's 14-6 loss at Baltimore in Week 2, and running back Trent Richardson, who was dealt in a surprise blockbuster trade with the Indianapolis Colts on Wednesday.

Browns coach Rob Chudzinski has already named Brian Hoyer, who leapfrogged veteran Jason Campbell on the depth chart, the starter at QB in Minneapolis.

Richardson, meanwhile, was selected by the Browns in the 2012 draft and was viewed as the centerpiece of a rebuilding process for a team that has not made the playoffs since 2002. But, that thought process came from the old regime in Cleveland not Chudzinski, CEO Joe Banner or first-year general manager Mike Lombardi.

Richardson did have injury issues in a rookie campaign that saw him total 1,317 yards and 12 touchdowns and he has struggled out of the gate this year with just 105 rushing yards in the first two games.

"Trent's a great player and we expect him to have success in this league," said Banner. "Right now, based on how we're building this team for sustainable success, we're going to be aggressive and do what it takes to assemble a team that consistently wins."

The Browns are expected to bring in veteran free agent Willis McGahee to fill their vacant starting running back spot. The 31-year-old McGahee ran for 731 yards with the Broncos last year. Chris Ogbonnaya and Bobby Rainey are also available in the backfield.

Campbell took over for Weeden on Cleveland's final possession against the Ravens in Week 2 and threw three incompletions in a row. His fourth pass, an underhand scoop, left Jordan Cameron well short of a first down.

Reigning Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco, just hours after his wife gave birth to the couple's second child, passed for 211 yards and a touchdown against Cleveland while moving to 11-0 all-time as a starter against the Browns.

"He came up big. That's the player he's shown he is," said Chudzinski.

The Ravens scored 14 unanswered points in the second half on Bernard Pierce's 5-yard touchdown run and Marlon Brown's 5-yard catch to secure the victory.

Weeden threw for 227 yards for the Browns before being injured.

Things aren't going much better for the Vikings, who have been one of the NFL's worst teams in the early going due to the continued poor play from quarterback Christian Ponder as well as an extremely porous pass defense.

Martellus Bennett's touchdown catch with 10 seconds to play gave the Chicago Bears a 31-30 win over Minnesota on a rainy day at Soldier Field last week.

Jay Cutler was picked off twice and lost a fumble, but finished the game 28- for-39 with 290 yards and three touchdowns for the Bears.

Adrian Peterson rushed for 100 yards on 26 carries, while Ponder went 16- for-30 for 227 yards, one touchdown and one pick-six for the Vikings, who have lost two straight division games to open the season after falling in Detroit last week.

"This was a very difficult loss because I thought our guys played extremely hard," said Minnesota head coach Leslie Frazier. "We just constantly battled in a tough place to play on the road. I told the players and staff after the game that I don't think I could have asked for better preparation and better fighting."

Chicago began the game-winning drive at its own 34 trailing by six with 3:15 to play.

On 3rd-and-4, Cutler got the ball to Brandon Marshall for a 12-yard gain, and the two got together for a 10-yard catch on 3rd-and-1 to again move the chains.

Facing a 1st-and-20 after a holding call, Bennett caught a pass for 23 yards to get the ball to the 16. After a spike and an incompletion, Cutler sent a pass to the left and Bennett reached out for it before crossing the goal line inside the left pylon. The extra-point was good and it was a 31-30 game with 10 seconds left.

A squib kick on the ensuing kickoff was fumbled by Minnesota's John Carlson, with Chicago recovering and Cutler taking a knee to run out the clock.

The Vikings hold a 11-3-0 advantage over the Browns in the all-time series between the two franchises. The last time Minnesota and Cleveland met was on Sept. 13, 2009, a 30-20 Vikings victory.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Hoyer played in two games (one start) with the Cardinals last season, passing for 330 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He's clearly not an NFL- ready quarterback at this stage but the Browns may be able to use "Joe Schmo" against a Vikings defense allowing 440 yards per game (28th in the NFL) and 32.5 points (30th).

Minnesota's reliance on the antiquated cover-2 as its base defense is really starting to be exploited in a league skewed toward offense. Rule changes and increased emphasis on flagging big hits in the secondary have made "playing coverage" in the NFL a non-starter but Frazier seems years behind the curve on the subject.

On paper the Vikings have two very good pass rushing ends in Jared Allen and Brian Robison along with plenty of talent in the back seven. Harrison Smith was a Pro Bowl-level safety as a rookie in 2012, and cornerbacks Chris Cook, Josh Robinson and first-round draft pick Xavier Rhodes have the talent and athleticism to excel in a more aggressive scheme.

"When you look at numbers, you have to sometimes look behind the numbers," Frazier said. "When you look at (Sunday's) situation, when it comes to points, and you never want to make excuses, but there are some factors that go into some of those numbers that you have to look at beyond just the raw data. Our defense, they're doing some good things. I really believe they're headed in the right direction. From my perspective, I have to be able to see the bigger picture and sometimes numbers can lie."

Refusing to admit you have a problem is hardly the way to go about solving it.

The biggest issue in pass coverage has been the zone drops from the nickel linebackers. It seems like Chad Greenway has lost a step and middle linebacker Erin Henderson doesn't have the natural instincts a cover-2 linebacker needs when in the zone so Minnesota has been exploited again and again by both Reggie Bush and Matt Forte on underneath stuff, passes in the flat and screens.

Right now Frazier is pounding the square peg in the round hold and even his effective players are starting to lose confidence as they watch the opposition move up and down the field with relative ease.

It's a shame for Cleveland that Weeden got hurt because this is the kind of a game which could have buoyed his confidence moving forward, an almost guaranteed 300-yard effort for a second-year player trying to find his way. Hoyer will make a few plays downfield but the consistency probably won't be there.

Offensively things may be even worse for the Vikings, who have inexplicably married themselves to a QB who simply can't play at the NFL level.

At some point this season you may see the first 11-man front in defensive football history as teams devise ways to stop Adrian Peterson with nary a worry over Ponder's ability to beat them with a downfield throw.

A mechanical mess, Ponder is still staring down receivers like a raw rookie 28 starts into his NFL career. He continues to slide out of the pocket at the first sign of trouble instead of stepping up into it and he needs receivers to run virtually perfect routes, otherwise he's always a threat to throw a pick-six as he did against Chicago when Jerome Simpson ran a poor pattern.

Despite all of that Frazier and general manager Rock Spielman fall on their swords week after week defending Ponder, hoping against hope that the light will finally go on for the Florida State product.

Instead of pointing at the obvious problem Frazier even threw his offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave under the bus a bit this week for not playing Cordarrelle Patterson.

"We're going to get that rectified," Frazier said. "(Patterson) definitely deserves to be on the field more. He's shown that in the few snaps he's gotten in the first two ball games. Hopefully, everything being equal, that should not be a part of the conversation next week. We want to get him on the field."

Problem is the explosive rookie receiver isn't a very skilled route runner at this stage. So, when playing him Musgrave is more jittery than a cat in a room filled with rocking chairs, taking the cautious approach to everything in an attempt to limit Ponder's game-changing mistakes.

And Musgrave's concerns are more than valid. He's already scaled things back to the point that the Vikings offense is more conservative than Jerry Falwell yet Ponder continues to give it away like he's Heidi Fleiss.

The one unit in this contest heading in a positive direction is the Browns' 3-4 attacking defense under coordinator Ray Horton, who is everything Frazier and Williams isn't.

The Browns allowed just 0.9 yards per rush in Week 1 against the Dolphins, and sacked Ryan Tannehill four times. Against the Ravens Cleveland gave up 2.8 yards per rush and got to Flacco twice.

The front seven has a chance to be special with nose tackle Phil Taylor anchoring things between free agent acquisition Desmond Bryant, a good 5- technique rusher, and Ahtyba Rubin, who is stout against the run. First-round pick Barkevious Mingo is back and teams with Paul Kruger on the edges while veteran D'Qwell Jackson is rock solid at inside linebacker.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

If the Vikings can't find a way to win their home opener against a team taking an NBA-tanking approach, it's time to raise the white flag and start thinking about Teddy Bridgewater or Jadeveon Clowney come April.

In fact this one comes down to the fact that Cleveland is actively trying to put itself in a position to get one of college football's top stars by inserting its third option at QB and giving Minnesota plenty of notice he would be under center, while also trading what was supposed to be its offensive bell cow in the middle of the week.

All that said, it still won't be all that easy for Ponder and Co.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Vikings 27, Browns 20

09/19 13:19:31 ET

Other Stories

  • NFL: Panthers vs. Cleveland

    Today at 1:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • NFL: Indianapolis at Dallas

    Today at 4:25 pm on WRAL-TV

  • Sun Bowl: Duke vs. Arizona State

    Saturday at 2:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • NFL: Panthers vs Cleveland

    Today at 1:00 pm on 99.9 The Fan

  • WCBB: Duke vs. Kentucky

    Today at 3:00 pm on 620am

  • NHL: Hurricanes at NY Rangers

    Tonight at 7:00 on 99.9 The Fan

  • CBB: Louisiana Tech at NC State

    Tuesday at 7:00 pm on WRAL-FM

Scoreboard
Local
Final
UNC 82
OSU 74
Final
MVSU 60
NCCU 94
 
Final
UNCW 66
ECU 54
Final
CAR 2
NYR 3
Final
CHA 104
UTA 86
Final
WVU 83
NCSU 69
1:00pm Today
CAR
CLE
7:00pm Tonight
NYR
CAR
 
Final
NYK 90
PHO 99
Final
NOP 88
POR 114
Final
CHA 104
UTA 86
Final
HOU 97
ATL 104
Final
DAL 99
SAN 93
Final
DEN 76
IND 73
Final
LAC 106
MIL 102
3:30pm Today
TOR
NYK
 
4:30pm Today
CLE
MEM
 
6:00pm Tonight
MIA
BOS
 
6:00pm Tonight
BRK
DET
 
6:00pm Tonight
SAC
LAL
 
6:00pm Tonight
ORL
PHI
 
6:00pm Tonight
WAS
PHO
 
7:00pm Tonight
MIN
IND
 
7:00pm Tonight
OKC
NOP
 
Final
LALAF 16
NEV 3
Final
UTEP 6
UTST 21
Final
COLST 10
UTAH 45
Final
AFA 38
WMICH 24
Final
BGU 33
SALABAMA 28
Final
GEOR 81
CHAR 78
Final
WKENT 67
LOU 76
Final
MICH 51
SMU 62
Final
CIN 47
VCU 68
Final
BSU 77
ABCHRIST 33
 
Final
PROV 85
UMASS 65
Final
AMER 46
MNTER 45
 
Final
UNC 82
OSU 74
Final
IUPUI 71
SALA 65
 
Final
VILL 82
SYR 77
Final
VT 64
CITA 61
Final
DUQ 79
MLOWELL 63
 
Final
FAIR 61
BEL 73
 
Final
YALE 60
GTDNS 64
 
Final
FD 76
DEL 74
 
Final
PSU 73
DREX 68
Final
UNCG 64
ELON 71
 
Final
ILL 62
MIZZ 59
Final
CAMP 90
MONT 64
 
Final
LONG 106
PSUBEAVER 74
 
Final
HOU 63
SCST 71
 
Final
FSU 75
SFLA 62
Final
BING 51
BONA 69
 
Final
RUTG 68
RFLSH 73
 
Final
MCNST 69
TOL 83
 
Final
JVU 84
TRUETT 55
 
Final
GT 65
VANDY 60
Final
INDST 56
EILL 60
 
Final
BUT 73
IND 82
Final
STEPH 94
ARTCH 57
 
Final
OREG 83
DELST 70
 
Final
Terriers 61
FATL 56
 
Final
TXARL 89
HPYN 50
 
Final
KU 96
LAF 69
Final
ARKST 67
MARS 58
Final
MEM 78
ORU 63
Final
KNST 53
UMBC 66
 
Final
NW 67
WMICH 61
Final
MIZST 65
EMICH 77
 
Final
CHIST 77
STJOE 54
 
Final
KENT 83
UCLA 44
Final
COC 68
DAVID 80
Final
RIU 69
DET 55
Final
UCR 78
HOUB 67
 
Final
MURST 89
ILLST 77
 
Final
NWST 89
LALAF 85
 
Final
WAGN 66
MON 74
 
Final
MVSU 60
NCCU 94
 
Final
PITT 81
OU 77
Final
TENNM 77
PBY 60
 
Final
WYO 57
SOUTH 39
 
Final
AFA 75
UCD 81
Final
MSST 51
USCU 53
 
Final
JMU 71
HIGH 80
 
Final
TXST 90
HTILL 56
 
Final
DRAK 54
ISU 83
Final
SHU 73
UNH 60
 
Final
SCU 72
NE 78
 
Final
MSU 64
TXSOU 71
Final
UF 63
WAKE 50
Final
ND 94
PURD 63
Final
SHSU 61
PVU 44
 
Final
AUB 89
XAV 88
Final
AKR 92
BLUFFTON 53
 
Final
DAY 78
BU 62
 
Final
UNCW 66
ECU 54
Final
CLMB 82
HOF 77
 
Final
GMAS 86
IONA 81
Final
TOWS 53
LAS 67
Final
MAN 73
MRGST 69
 
Final
CCST 76
YALE 84
 
Final
PEPP 63
RICH 65
Final
MAR 58
STJOE 75
Final
KYST 71
TEXAM 64
Final
MAST 72
VALPO 75
 
Final
UMKC 104
INCWORD 110
 
Final
IDST 50
CALST 59
 
Final
NIOWA 56
IOWA 44
Final
SIUE 61
UWMIL 56
 
Final
TEX 78
LBSU 68
Final
TCU 88
TXSA 57
Final
ARK 84
SEMIZ 67
Final
NCOL 69
JVST 60
 
Final
ARST 81
LEH 84
 
Final
NMST 67
NMU 69
 
Final
WASH 69
OKLA 67
Final
GRCN 81
STED 55
 
Final
WEBER 73
WLVRN 61
 
Final
WVU 83
NCSU 69
Final
SDST 70
BST 57
Final
GONZ 63
CPSL 50
Final
PAC 71
FRES 68
 
Final
PORT 87
MNTST 60
 
Final
CSNO 68
TAMCC 75
 
Final
UTST 65
SDKST 68
 
Final
BYU 79
STAN 77
Final
UNLV 46
UTAH 59
 
12:00pm Today
UVA
HARV
 
1:00pm Today
BGU
FERST
 
1:00pm Today
ARMY
MAINE
 
1:00pm Today
QUIN
ORST
 
1:00pm Today
CLST
USF
 
1:30pm Today
CARK
CCAR
 
2:00pm Today
UWGB
ARKLR
 
2:00pm Today
RAD
CORN
 
2:00pm Today
UNT
CREI
 
2:00pm Today
CAN
HC
 
2:00pm Today
USB
GHND
 
2:00pm Today
OKST
MD
 
2:00pm Today
WINT
REIN
 
2:00pm Today
UGST
SMISS
 
2:00pm Today
NEOM
TXPA
 
2:00pm Today
STLU
VERM
 
2:00pm Today
UNCA
WCU
 
2:05pm Today
EVAN
ALAST
 
2:30pm Today
HART
FIU
 
2:35pm Today
VALPO
GOSHEN
 
3:00pm Today
LIP
PEAY
 
3:00pm Today
DEN
BRY
 
3:00pm Today
MONT
SD
 
3:00pm Today
MTST
TENST
 
3:00pm Today
SAMF
LAMON
 
3:30pm Today
SCAR
COKR
 
4:00pm Today
HAMP
NARZ
 
4:00pm Today
SDU
SDCHR
 
4:00pm Today
BC
USC
 
4:30pm Today
NICST
TROY
 
4:30pm Today
BRAD
UCI
 
6:00pm Tonight
UGA
SHU
 
6:30pm Tonight
ALA
APP
 
7:00pm Tonight
KSU
NDST
 
7:00pm Tonight
WASU
SJST
 
9:00pm Tonight
UTEP
ALCOR
 
10:00pm Tonight
SEAT
SACST
 
Final
LOS 4
ARI 2
Final
CLB 3
CHI 2
Final
BUF 1
COL 5
Final
PIT 3
FLA 1
Final
CAR 2
NYR 3
Final
MON 4
OTT 1
Final
TOR 4
PHI 7
Final
NYI 3
TAM 1
Final
NJD 0
WAS 4
Final
MIN 5
NAS 6
Final
VAN 3
CAL 2
Final
SJS 3
STL 2
6:00pm Tonight
DET
COL
 
6:00pm Tonight
EDM
DAL
 
7:00pm Tonight
BOS
BUF
 
7:00pm Tonight
NYR
CAR
 
7:00pm Tonight
CHI
TOR
 
9:00pm Tonight
WIN
PHI
 
Final
WAS 27
PHI 24
Final
SFX 35
SDC 38
1:00pm Today
NOS
ATL
1:00pm Today
HOU
BAL
1:00pm Today
CAR
CLE
1:00pm Today
CHI
DET
1:00pm Today
TAM
GBP
1:00pm Today
PIT
KAN
1:00pm Today
MIA
MIN
1:00pm Today
NYJ
NEP
4:05pm Today
STL
NYG
4:25pm Today
OAK
BUF
4:25pm Today
DAL
IND
8:30pm Tonight
ARI
SEA