By Matt Citak
The Cleveland Browns, after a strong Week 1 performance in which they almost came back to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers, were not as sharp against the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday. The Baltimore defense created five turnovers, including three interceptions and a fumble from rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer. The Ravens beat the young Browns team rather easily. Kizer did not look as good in his second career NFL game as he did in his debut, though the migraines he experienced in the second quarter could be partly to blame.
The Browns defense put together a solid performance last week, limiting Joe Flacco to just 217 yards passing, with two touchdowns and one interception. Cleveland actually gained more total yards than Baltimore (386 to 337), but the turnovers proved to be too difficult to overcome.
The Indianapolis Colts have been forced to start the 2017 season without their franchise quarterback, Andrew Luck. This has led to two consecutive Colts’ losses, with the second coming at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals in overtime. Indianapolis’s Week 1 quarterback, Scott Tolzien, was benched for backup Jacoby Brissett, who looked significantly better against the Cardinals defense. Brissett completed 20 of 37 passes for a career-high 216 yards, and added 22 yards rushing.
With Luck out again, the Colts will rely on Brissett to lead them to their first win of the season. Indianapolis traded for Brissett less than three weeks ago, and the young quarterback is still learning his way around the Colts’ offense. With another week of practice under his belt, the 23-year-old quarterback looks to improve on last week’s performance.
NFL on CBS analyst Jay Feely will be calling the Browns-Colts game with Beth Mowins, who in her NFL on CBS play-by-play debut, becomes the first woman ever to call an NFL game in the Network’s history. Feely weighed in on Sunday’s intriguing AFC match-up.
Cleveland Browns vs. Indianapolis Colts – 1:00 PM ET – CBS
CBS Local Sports: How do you think DeShone Kizer has played in his first two NFL games?
Jay Feely: He obviously had a better first game than he did in the second game when he played Baltimore. But that defense has not made life easy for anybody, like Andy Dalton. But overall, if you watch DeShone Kizer, you’re impressed with how big he is, how strong he is, his decisiveness in throwing the ball. He’s showed toughness and resilience. He’s not afraid at all to make the hard throws. He doesn’t shy away from taking a chance down the field and doing it definitively. Overall he has impressed me. He’s been better than I thought he’d be, and they have hope because of him. And that’s one of the greatest things a franchise like the Browns can have: hope.
CBS Local Sports: What do the Colts need to do in order to survive until they get Andrew Luck back?
Jay Feely: They need to start running the ball better. They’ve only rushed for 75 yards per game, which is 24th in the NFL. They have a guy like Frank Gore, and another back in Marlon Mack. They have to look at Jacoby Brissett, because it looks like they’re settled at quarterback until Andrew Luck comes back. Jacoby Brissett played a relatively good game against the Arizona Cardinals. He wasn’t spectacular, but until the last play for the Colts in overtime, when he threw the interception, he was efficient, he protected the ball. Overall he was 20 of 37 for 216 yards. While those numbers don’t jump out at you, he did a good job in managing that team. Now the playbook can expand, and Rob Chudzinski can look at what he did successfully in New England and at NC State, and begin to incorporate more of those things. And that’s something Rob Chudzinski has talked about often in regard to himself in that he creates a game plan adjusted to the guys and what they do well. Fit in the x’s and o’s. As they begin to become more comfortable with each other, that’s what he and Jacoby Brissett will be able to do.
CBS Local Sports: Has the Cleveland defense shown signs of improvement from last season?
Jay Feely: Yes, they definitely have. They’ve been aggressive. They’re putting their safeties back, and they did that against two teams that like to go long… Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Playing their safeties 20-yards deep, not allowing the home run balls over the top. In fact, when Joe Flacco tried to do that, he threw deep and Jason McCourty picked him off. Overall, they’ve looked better, although they were pounded against Baltimore. The Ravens were successful running the ball, which is something the Browns have to fix. But they have a lot of young parts. They don’t have their best player in Myles Garrett, the first overall pick, in there. So that is a hindrance to them, not having that presence and speed off the edge and that ability to rush the passer. But there are a lot of pieces that they can build on, and there are a lot of young pieces. This whole team is the youngest team in the NFL. So there’s going to be growing pains But you have to trust your young guys, bring them along as quickly as you can and understand there’s going to be growth.
CBS Local Sports: Both teams have started the season 0-2. Which team is more desperate for a win?
Jay Feely: There isn’t one of these teams that is more desperate than the other. Anytime you start 0-2, you know the percentages and what that means for making the playoffs. Indianapolis, when you look at Chuck Pagano’s time there, they’ve had a lot of success. Including the playoffs, he’s 52-36 in his record there. So they expect to be in the playoffs. They expect to be there, and obviously not having your franchise quarterback in Andrew Luck changes things, as they would for any team. But because of that expectation level, staring at 0-3 for them, as opposed to looking at 0-3 for Cleveland, is a little different.
Cleveland knows they’re the youngest team in the NFL, and they’re growing and trying to find the franchise quarterback and trying to grow these young players. But nobody in the NFL is okay with losing, and no one in the NFL is okay starting at 0-3. There is no security in the NFL, whether you’re a player or a coach. You understand that you’re judged on wins and losses, and you know that your job security is dependent on that.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Chicago Bears – 1:00 PM ET – CBS
CBS Local Sports: What will the Bears defense need to do to slow down Pittsburgh and their “Killer B’s” attack?
Jay Feely: It’s tough. They should take a page from Cleveland’s playbook a little bit and where they played their safeties. They said, ‘We can live with Ben Roethlisberger checking down, and we’re not going to let him go deep to his bevy of receivers. We’re not going to let him throw the home-run ball. We’re going to make him be patient. We’re going to make him do eight, 10, 12-play drives. And at some point, hopefully, we can get a sack fumble or an interception and make a couple of big plays. But we’re not going to let them get those huge chunk plays.’
If Chicago is smart, which I believe they are with that coaching staff, they’ll play a similar defense. You’ll see that throughout the year. Until Pittsburgh proves that they can run the ball again, and proves that their run game will be a force, teams will try to take away the deep balls and make them put together long, extended drives.”
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Green Bay Packers – 4:25 PM ET – CBS
CBS Local Sports: What do the Bengals need to do to get their offense going?
Jay Feely: You’ve got to find a way to get Andy Dalton comfortable, and that starts with running the ball. They have three good running backs, and need to decide who they want to be their bell cow. Who’s going to tote the rock for them, and who are they going to trust and rely on? Once the running game gets going, that will open things up for Andy Dalton and that passing game. They have way too much talent to be struggling as much as they have offensively. You see that when they make a change at offensive coordinator two weeks into the season. Marvin Lewis made a decision based on that fact, that there’s too much talent there to be struggling as much as they are offensively. You can’t get behind in this division, where you have Pittsburgh and Baltimore. You can’t afford to fall behind this fast, this early.
Matt Citak is a producer for CBS Local Sports and a proud Vanderbilt alum. Follow him on Twitter or send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.