The Bucs are riding high as they come off their bye week, having beaten the Rams and Seahawks back-to-back to get to 5-5. And as they head back on the road this Sunday to face the 3-7 Browns, they have recent success against Cleveland quarterback Jacoby Brissett working in their favor as well.
Tampa Bay is about to face Brissett for the third time since Todd Bowles arrived as the team’s defensive coordinator in 2019. Granted, the 29-year-old quarterback will face the Bucs with his third different team in that span. But in the first two meetings, he and his team have failed to emerge with a win.
Back in 2019, Brissett came to Raymond James Stadium as a member of the Colts. He fared pretty well on that day, throwing for 251 yards and two touchdowns on 19-of-36 passing. But the Bucs beat the Colts, 38-35, thanks to a 456-yard passing day by then-quarterback Jameis Winston. And despite the 35 points on the scoreboard, seven came via a pick-six and 17 came on drives of 50 yards or fewer.
Bowles’ defense had five passes defended, with three from Carlton Davis III and one each from Ndamukong Suh and Jamel Dean. The unit also sacked Brissett once and hit him seven times, an effort largely led by Shaquil Barrett. Of course, Barrett is out for the season with a torn Achilles, so he won’t be lining up and trying to get after Brissett in Cleveland on Sunday.
Brissett’s most recent meeting with Bowles’ Bucs defense came last year when he was with the Dolphins. Playing in place of an injured Tua Tagovailoa, he completed 27 of his 39 passes for 275 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He also lost a fumble as Tampa Bay went on to rout Miami by a score of 45-17.
Bucs CB Jamel Dean – Photo by: USA Today
Dean intercepted Brissett in the game, while Barrett forced the quarterback’s fumble. Suh recovered the ball. Barrett notched 1.5 sacks in that game, while Lavonte David added one and Vita Vea contributed a half-sack. On the afternoon, the Bucs hit Brissett seven times.
Of course, past results won’t have any bearing on what happens this Sunday. The fact is, Brissett is now with the Browns and will likely be starting his final game for the team — at least for now. Deshaun Watson returns is eligible to return from his suspension next week when Cleveland plays Houston, his former team. Given the payday the Browns gave Watson — despite the allegations against him — Brissett was always going to be a placeholder for him.
But despite the Browns’ 3-7 record, Brissett’s stats are solid. He has thrown for 2,398 yards and 11 touchdowns to five interceptions to go with his 64.3% completion rate. He also has 211 yards and two scores on the ground. He may not be the best quarterback Tampa Bay will face down the stretch, but he’s not someone to be overlooked. Of course, the Bucs should know that, having faced him twice since 2019. They’ve also lost to Kenny Pickett/Mitch Trubisky and P.J. Walker this season. So, they’ll have their work cut out for them as they look to improve to 6-5.
Browns Will Look To Establish The Run Against Bucs
While Brissett is the man lining up under center, Cleveland’s offense is all about the run game. It’s not hard to believe, considering the Browns’ backfield features the duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Chubb and Hunt have powered the No. 5 run game in the league, with Cleveland averaging 150.9 rushing yards per game. Chubb is No. 4 on the list of the league’s rushing leaders, posting 923 yards and 11 touchdowns on 174 carries (5.3 avg.).
Hunt is a rushing threat as well, having run for 346 yards and three scores on 88 carries (3.9 avg.) this season. He also has 22 catches for 149 yards and a touchdown. The Bucs know what they’re up against when they roll into FirstEnergy Stadium on Sunday.
“Well, that’s the thing you see week in and week out, but the thing is Cleveland – you know when you get off the plane – they’re going to run the ball,” Bucs run game coordinator/defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers said Monday. “That’s how they’re built with their personnel and everything, and they’ve got a top-flight running back – actually, a top-flight tandem at running back – so, the thing is, it’ll be a good challenge.”
Cleveland had its worst rushing game of the season in its Week 10 loss to Buffalo, running for just 80 yards on 26 attempts (3.1 avg.) in a 31-23 loss. But Rodgers thinks that will have the team motivated to bounce back against the Bucs.
“They didn’t do so well against Buffalo, so they’ll be highly motivated to do well because they kind of understand how they win – when they run the ball it opens everything up for them – so it will be a big test for us,” Rodgers said.
Tampa Bay’s run defense wasn’t terrible early on this season, but it wasn’t up to the standards that it set in previous seasons under Bowles. But in the last two weeks, the Bucs have been much better against the run. They limited the Rams to 68 yards on 24 attempts (2.8 avg.) in Week 9. That was chalked up partly to Los Angeles’ extremely poor rushing attack. But then the Bucs went to Germany and shut down the Seahawks’ potent run game. They held Seattle to just 39 yards on 14 carries (2.8 avg.)
The return of Akiem Hicks has been a major help for Bowles’ defense. The improved play of linebacker Devin White has been a factor in the last two weeks as well. If both guys can keep things going and the defense can limit Chubb and the Browns’ ground game, the Bucs will like their chances of picking up a third consecutive win.
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