The move of Sunday's game to Ford Field spares Jacoby Brissett from reliving a white-out game in Orchard Park, NY, when he played for the Indianapolis Colts in 2018. Brissett threw for 55 yards on 22 attempts in that game under a flash snowstorm. (Cleveland Browns)
Epic storm chases Browns-Bills to Ford Field in Detroit
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Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for TheLandOnDemand.com and 850 ESPN Cleveland. He has covered the Browns since 1984.
Takeaways from Browns practice and interviews …
The Browns practiced two days outdoors in the cold this week in anticipation of playing the Buffalo Bills Sunday in Orchard Park, NY, as scheduled. But now they will get in one practice in their indoor fieldhouse because the game has been moved to Ford Field in downtown Detroit.
Kickoff will be 1 p.m., and the game will be televised on CBS as part of its regularly-scheduled broadcast. Details on ticket information will be announced soon.
The decision to move the game for public safety concerns was made about 4 p.m. on Thursday. Weather forecasts calling for 3-to-6 feet of snow in Western New York this weekend prompted New York Gov. Kathy Hochul to issue a state of emergency for 11 New York counties and close I-90 to commercial traffic from the Pennsylvania border to Rochester, NY.
The state is expecting epic snowfall and gusty winds to result in power outages and hazardous travel conditions.
In a statement, the Browns said the decision to move the game “was done in consultation with the Buffalo Bills and local and state authorities as the region prepares for the storm.”
So, Browns players looking forward to playing a snow game for the first time in the NFL -- such as receiver Amari Cooper, linebacker Sione Takitaki, guard Joel Bitonio and running back Nick Chubb – won’t get their wish.
Though the neutral-site location would seem to greatly decrease Buffalo’s home-field advantage, moving the game indoors neutralizes the Browns’ edge in the running game and accentuates Buffalo's No. 1-ranked overall offense and Josh Allen's No. 2-ranked pass offense.
“If you are playing in a blizzard game, obviously you don’t have to worry about the pass as much,” said cornerback Greg Newsome. “Obviously, they will pass the ball, but that won’t be, I would say, the focal point. When you are playing in a dome, everything is a go.”
Historically, the Browns are 5-5 in games against the Bills in Orchard Park. Their record in Ford Field, which opened in 2002, is 0-2. But those games were against the Detroit Lions, of course.
Peeling the onion
Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt gave a little more insight into how the Browns are re-incorporating Deshaun Watson into a practice routine without disrupting Jacoby Brissett’s preparation time for the Bills’ game.
Van Pelt said Watson has been running some plays on the scout team and also some with the Browns’ offense, plus getting reps in post-practice “opportunity periods.”
“It’s not tough,” Van Pelt said of fitting in Watson’s reps. “You just have intent on what you want to get done, what reps you can give Deshaun that you feel Jacoby has a great understanding of and doesn’t actually need that rep again. You try to make sure you have the right plays selected for Deshaun, but at the same time not short Jacoby his preparation work.”
Van Pelt also said there’s “a fine line” in keeping QB3 Josh Dobbs ready to go, too, with ample work on scout team.
“It’s a bit of a juggling act,” Van Pelt said. “[But Watson’s] ready to go. He looks good.”
Turning it up
The heat is back on defensive coordinator Joe Woods after his defense surrendered a season-high 39 points and 491 yards to the Miami Dolphins. It was the fourth game the Browns gave up 30+ plus points, and they’ve lost them all.
“It is a part of the business,” Woods said of the criticism he’s receiving on social media and sports radio. “For me, you can’t let it affect you. You can’t ride the emotional rollercoaster. I know what type of business I am in – it is a fair business – but we are in the business of winning, and right now, we are not doing it so that criticism is going to come. It is deserved in some instances. I promise you, I am trying to do everything I can to get the thing turned around, but we have to execute and we have to play better on gameday.”
Can’t blame injuries
When a team’s season goes down the tubes like the Browns’, often a deluge of injuries can be the reason. Not so with the Browns, however.
According to overthecap.com, the Browns rank 23rd in the NFL in money tied up in players on injury lists this year. They currently have 11 players on injury lists making $18.041 million this year.
(The money is more reflective of the negative impact on the team than sheer number of players because the better players generally make more money.)
Among AFC North teams, Baltimore ranks 13th in the NFL with $32.782 million tied up on injury lists. Cincinnati is 15th with $28.435 million, and Pittsburgh is 18th with $24.796 million.
The Browns might argue they’ve had Watson on the suspension list through the season’s first 11 games and that is a fair reason for their 3-6 record. But they supposedly planned for that. Before his suspension, Watson was due to make 45.367 million this year.
Right tackle Jack Conklin (foot, rest), receiver David Bell (concussion), guard Michael Dunn (foot), tackle Jordan Elliott (personal), and tackle Perrion Winfrey (head) did not practice. Tight end David Njoku (high ankle) returned for the first time in five weeks on a limited basis …
Left guard Joel Bitonio confirmed the Browns’ offensive line played its worst of the season in Miami. Bitonio said line coach Bill Callahan “let us know about it this week … That’s his job to coach us up.” …
Jerome Ford’s 48-yard return with the opening kickoff in Miami furthered his resolve to take one to the house before the year is over. “Every day [I’m] getting better at it,” he said. “Of course, I want to be the best at whatever I do.”