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Tim Crone: Don't underestimate the Browns in Sunday's playoff

The Examiner
Tim Crone

Even though it is difficult to focus on sports with all the turmoil evolving around the country, at least Chiefs fans can look forward to the upcoming playoff game against a clearly improving Cleveland Browns team.

The Browns are definitely for real. Their offensive line may be the best in the NFL. They are extremely well-coached and use their running schemes to set up their passing game. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are the best running combination in football. They are both also becoming great receivers out of the backfield.

The Browns’ running game play action and bootleg game is as good as anybody the Chiefs defense will play during the playoffs. They have a solid receiving corps with good tight ends and wide receivers.

Jarvis Landry is underrated and is tough over the middle. He is a clone of retired Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Hines Ward. He is a wide receiver who plays the game of football like an angry linebacker. He can catch, throw, and hit you on blocks during the running game. He is a true pro.

Many have opinions about quarterback Baker Mayfield. He has done a lot of talking but is learning to shut his mouth and let his play do the talking. He is amazingly effective in the passing game because he excels in play action and bootlegging to his left, which is a plus for any right-handed quarterback.

The question is, can he lead his team to a big win in the playoffs?

He does not have to with the style of play the Browns run on offense. If the Chiefs allow the Browns to run the football, he will be able to play action and bootleg the entire game.

Defensively the Browns have lineman Myles Garrett who is one of the top three pass rushers in the league. He is a stud! The linebacking corps is solid and has speed.

The Achilles’ heel of the Browns defense is with their secondary. If the Chiefs offensive line can hold up, they should be able to terrorize the Browns secondary. Patrick Mahomes and his cast of receivers could have a field day if they can get time to throw.

However, the Chiefs must improve their running game if they plan to make another Super Bowl appearance. Damien Williams and the Chiefs’ running game started to improve at the right time during the playoffs last season. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Le’Veon Bell and Darrel Williams have to be able to make the running game a threat early in the game. The offensive line has to play better than it has for about six weeks or the home team could be in trouble.

Defensively, the Chiefs’ biggest weakness is at linebacker and that becomes a huge problem when you play a running game as good as the Browns. If the Chiefs defense has to rely on the safeties to fill the alleys on running plays, the Browns will then have the advantage in the play action passing game.

In looking at this game on paper, each team’s weaknesses match up poorly to the other team’s strengths. The game could prove to be a shootout with the last possession determining the game.

A sure bet is that the Chiefs cannot fall behind early against a team like the Browns. They have the running game to control the time on the clock and keep Mahomes and company off the field.

I have heard a lot of chatter about how the Chiefs are going to blow the Browns away, which is uninformed craziness. The Browns are hungry and have weapons and strengths to pose many problems for the hometown team.

The Chiefs need to be ready from the start. An early lead can put pressure on Baker Mayfield to be the guy to win the game, which should be the hope for Chiefs fans. If not, look for a long day at Arrowhead with the hope that Mahomes can pull one more game out of his bag of tricks. The Chiefs are the favorites, but this Browns team is for real.

• The quote of the day comes from the great Hall of Famer Jim Brown: “One thing I learned in football is that you must have respect. It is not so important that people like you, but it is an absolute must that you have their respect.” As for the rest of the country, a quote from Michael Edwards: “Good men prefer to be accountable.”   

Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School and is a host of a weekly radio show, “Off the Wall with Tim Crone,” on KCWJ (1030 AM) 6 p.m. every Monday. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at t.crone@comcast.net.