The opening drive
Anyone who watches the first five minutes of any Browns game can identify the first major problem with this team. Giving up an opening drive score on defense and failing to move the chains once on offense has become all too common for a slow starting Cleveland team.
The Browns have been outscored 29-10 in the first quarter over the past six weeks. This is no coincidence. The sad reality has been that Cleveland is never ready to go early on, immediately placing them in a hole. This limits their playbook, and makes the opposition a whole lot more comfortable.
The solution to this really isn’t rocket science. Whether or not the Browns have the ball first, coming out with the right combination of intensity and focus on both teams’ opening drives will improve results automatically.
Also, it is important that the Browns are not afraid of taking minor risks on both opening drives. Defensively, they should not hesitate to bring pressure, even if it leaves only four in the secondary. On offense, they shouldn’t be too concerned with saving plays for later in the game. After all, falling behind limits their play calling enough anyway.
In this one especially, getting on the board early and preventing the Chargers from doing the same is critical. With an irrelevant game in regards to the playoff picture, this contest could be decided early on. It will be Christmas Eve, it will be cold, and there won’t be a whole lot of fans in the stands. If the Chargers get behind early, the Browns could be in business.