Cleveland Browns: Keys to victory against Bengals

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /
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Cleveland Browns
(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

Third down

The Browns defense has made drastic improvements this offseason, as has been evident throughout the fist three games. But they still have struggled in one area, third down.

Last week, the Colts converted on 8 of 17 third downs, a 47 percent conversion rate, which is far too high. A lot goes into a stat like this, but it is imperative that Cleveland can find a way to get off the field defensively when the opportunity presents itself.

A key to stopping Cincinnati on third down will be to make the third downs as challenging as possible. This goes back to the previous key, stopping the rushing attack, but remains the most effective way to reduce their conversion rate.

Andy Dalton has not gotten off to a fabulous start this season, and creating third down situations in which Cleveland can pressure the quarterback will only force more mistakes.

Sending extra defenders after the quarterback is risky on third down, especially if the distance is manageable. Several times last week the Browns were burned after sending extra pass rushers, as Indianapolis quarterback Jacoby Brissett found the open man whose defender became a blitzer.

There is a balance to a third down pass rush, one which the Browns will need to find. Gregg Williams likes to be aggressive, but he can’t hang his secondary out to dry.

Ultimately, making third down difficult for Cincinnati to begin with is the best way to maximize the chances of getting off the field. Getting off the field will impact the Browns in every facet of the game, and give them a very good chance of coming away with their first victory.