2002 Record: (2-4) 10.20.02 | 3pm
Expansion Bowl 2002
by Jimmy Mohr
This Sunday, the NFL’s two newest teams will meet when the Texans visit the Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium. The Browns are in their fourth season after Art Modell moved the original Browns to Baltimore. Texans offensive coordinator Chris Palmer was the Browns’ inagural head coach, leading the Browns to only five wins in two years. This week is his first crack at his former team.
Palmer’s replacement, Butch Davis, has not fared much better than Palmer. The Browns improved to 7-9 last season but have started this season a disappointing 2-4. Starting QB Tim Couch is now in his fourth year and is entering a critical time in his career. Couch was Cleveland’s first draft pick in 1999 and fans expect him to win football games now that he has three years under his belt. But injuries and poor performance have riddled his brief career, and the Cleveland fans voiced their displeasure when they cheered as he lay on the field after suffering a concussion two weeks ago. He may have the rest of this season to decide his fate in Cleveland.
The Texans on the other hand have shown significant improvement of late. Houston’s offense had their best game of the year against the Bills defense last week. The Browns’ 27th ranked defense is worse than Buffalo’s (ranked 25th last week). giving the Texans reason to be optimistic Sunday. David Carr appears to be gaining confidence with every game and the Browns’ weak defense could provide him the opportunity to show up fellow number one pick, Couch.
When Houston has the ball…
The Browns are the weakest team in the league against the run. James Allen and Jonathan Wells could have a field day… if only the line were healthy. This week, the Texans learned Tony Boselli is done for the year and Ryan Young may still be a week away. If the Texans are able to establish the running game, Carr should have time to throw. The Browns have recorded only six sacks so far this year. Corey Bradford and/or Jabar Gafney could have big games.
When Cleveland has the ball…
Butch Davis likes to throw the ball and then throw some more. The Browns have four wide receivers and one running back with 20 or more catches, so they like to spread the ball around. Couch has had problems engineering scoring drives; backup QB Kelly Holcomb has more touchdown passes in 50 fewer attempts. If the Texans defense can force a few three-and-outs early, forget about home field advantage for Cleveland. The “Dawg Pound” is liable to tear Couch and the offense to shreds.
1. Limit Penalties Penalties probably cost the Texans a victory last week. And it seems to be the same penalties every week: false starts and holding calls account for over half of the Texans’ total. They are the second most penalized team in the league, a crippling statistic when you consider the offense ranks last in the league in yards per game. The Texans can win this week if they can minimize the penalties that have plagued them all season.
2. Field position Last week, the Bills began every possession on their own side of the field, and as a result, the Texans remained in the game until the final gun. Houston’s special teams can help the defense by pinning the Browns on their side of the field because Cleveland does not have the firepower to overcome poor field position. If Couch has a long field staring him in the face, the pressure he already faces will be an even bigger factor.
3. Running Game Last week, Jonathan Wells rushed for 70 yards against the Bills. With Ryan Schau now starting and Ryan Young expected back this week, the running game could have a big week. The Browns’ run defense is the worst in the league. A combined 100+ yards effort by Wells and Allen should translate to a Texans triumph.
Chris Palmer vs. His former team
Palmer still runs the same offense that contributed to his firing in Cleveland. Tim Couch never developed under his wing and now Palmer has started all over again with David Carr. Whether he admits it or not, Palmer has something to prove to the Cleveland fans and the organization. If Carr can have a big game and the Texans leave town with a “W,” that’ll, I’m sure, be a big deal to Palmer.
David Carr vs. Tim Couch
David Carr takes a look into the crystal ball again this week when he faces his second consecutive QB who was a top pick in the draft (plus, prior to that, he faced #2 overall, Donovan McNabb). This week is different in that, like Carr, Couch was the first draft pick of an expansion team. Four seasons later, Couch appears to be playing himself out of a job and into obscurity. Living proof of what can happen to a young quarterback in a town starving for a Super Bowl Champion.
Dwayne Rudd v. Jay Foreman
Both have cost their teams victories this year by temporarily losing their minds and celebrating at the most inopportune time imagineable (Rudd much moreso than Foreman) — so this could be the rubber match to see, once and for all, who’s taunting is most detrimental to their team.
HoustonProFootball.com’s hard working… working staff weigh in with their predictions for this week’s game.
Bob: Brownies have offensive woes themselves and being at home is no advantage to Couch. Texans 16, Browns 14
Dave: Cleveland figures out yet another way to blow a close one. Texans 21 Browns 19
Jimmy: Texans first road victory comes on the semi-frozen tundra in Cleveland. Texans 27, Browns 17
Keith: Second narrow loss in as many weeks, as team #32 still needs to learn how to win the close ones. Browns 20, Texans 17
Ric: I know, I know… on paper, it looks good. But this is a must-win for Cleveland, for several reasons, not the least of which is that they don’t want to be shown up by the newer expansion team. Browns 20, Texans 17
Warren: The Cleveland defense is about as bad a Buffalo’s, and they’re not nearly as good offensively. Texans 21, Browns 14
2002 Regular Season Records Bob 4-1; Dave 3-2; Jimmy 4-1; Keith 5-0;
Ric 3-2; Warren 3-2
TEXANS PASS ATT CMP YDS TD/IN Carr 121 56 737 5/6 TEAM 122 57 742 6/6 RUSH ATT YDS AVG TD Wells 49 217 4.4 0 TEAM 143 534 3.7 1 REC NO YDS AVG TD Bradford 18 352 19.6 3 TEAM 57 742 13 6 BROWNS PASS ATT CMP YDS TD/INT Couch 145 88 837 4/6 TEAM 238 146 1574 12/8 RUSH ATT YDS AVG TD White 61 300 4.9 1 TEAM 126 471 3.7 1 REC NO YDS AVG TD Northcutt 20 344 17.2 4 TEAM 146 1574 10.8 12 PRESEASON 8.05 GIANTS 17-34 8.10 @ Saints 13-10 8.17 @Chiefs 9-19 8.24 DOLPHINS 3-24 8.30 BUCCANEERS 13-17 REGULAR SEASON 9.08 COWBOYS 19-10 9.15 @ Chargers 3-24 9.22
3-23 9.29 @ Eagles 17-35 10.06 OPEN 10.13 BILLS 24-31 10.20 @ Browns 17-34 10.27 @ Jaguars 21-19 11.03 BENGALS 3-38 11.10 @ Titans 10-17 11.17 JAGUARS 21-24 11.24 GIANTS 16-14 12.01 @ Colts 3-19 12.08 @ Steelers 24-6 12.15 RAVENS 19-23 12.22 @ Redskins 10-26 12.29 TITANS 3-13 OVERALL 4-12 click on a team to read the GameDay Preview; click on the score to read the GameDay Review