Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

November 08, 2018 at 1:32 am.

Browns to be challenged again by top quarterback

The line of superior quarterbacks challenging the Cleveland Browns’ injury-riddled secondary is about to come to an end – but not for another week.

The Browns are on their bye Nov. 18. Before finally getting a Sunday off, they host Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Browns, on a four-game skid, are 2-6-1 and spiraling toward their 11th straight losing season.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes against the Browns on Oct. 28. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes directed an offense that put up 499 yards of offense last Sunday in a 37-21 romp. He threw three touchdown passes and passed for 375 yards.

Ryan is on fire for the Falcons. He threw for 350 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-14 victory over the Redskins last week.

Facing Ryan and dangerous Falcons receivers Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley plus Mohamed Sanu would be a task under normal circumstances, but the Browns are decimated with injuries.

Linebacker Christian Kirksey (hamstring) and cornerback E.J. Gaines (concussion) were placed on injured reserve Wednesday with injuries incurred against the Chiefs last week. Starting cornerback Denzel Ward (hip) was also injured playing the Chiefs.

Safety Damarious Randall was inactive against the Chiefs because of a groin injury, linebacker Joe Schobert missed his third straight game with a hamstring injury and starting cornerback Terrance Mitchell, on injured reserve (wrist), will miss his sixth straight game Sunday.

Schobert and Randall practiced Wednesday. Ward and linebacker Jamie Collins (ankle) did not practice Wednesday, but interim head coach Gregg Williams is confident both will practice Thursday. Getting Schobert and Randall back should at least slow the bleeding.

“We have another explosive offense coming in here this Sunday,” Randall said Wednesday in the locker room after practice. “They have explosive weapons with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley and Sanu. They have a nice little running game and a former MVP at quarterback.”

The Browns tried to play ball-control to keep Mahomes off the field and will likely try the same tactic against the Falcons.

The score didn’t reflect it, but the strategy actually worked against the Chiefs. Excluding taking over on their 35 with only 26 seconds left in the second quarter, the Chiefs had only three first-half possessions. The problem for the Browns was Kansas City scored touchdowns on all three of them.

Rookie running back Nick Chubb had a season-high 22 carries against the Chiefs. The Falcons rank 17th in the league defending the run. Handing the ball to Chubb frequently will chew up clock while keeping the Browns’ battered defense and the Falcons potent offense off the field.

“He’s physical,” Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield said of Chubb. “It’s very rare for him to be taken down by one player. He hits the pile and pushes it. It goes a long way to wearing on a defense when they think they have him wrapped up and he pushes it another four yards. It’s a short gain, but when it comes down to it, it goes a long way to moving the chains.”

Chubb leads the Browns with 403 yards on 74 carries – a 5.4 average.

SERIES HISTORY: 15th regular season meeting. Browns lead series, 11-3. The Browns have won three of the four games they played with the Falcons since 1999. Their 26-24 win in Atlanta on Nov. 23, 2014, was a watershed moment for the Browns. From that point on, the Browns are 6-55-1.