NFL Preview - Kansas City (2-10) at Cleveland (4-8)
By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - Prior to last weekend, the most pertinent Kansas City
Chiefs story angle for a Week 14 game at Cleveland would have been the returns
of quarterback Brady Quinn and running back Peyton Hillis to the city of their
longest previous NFL stops.
Needless to say, after last weekend the Chiefs-centric topic matter has
The trip will provide a second in-game outlet for the Kansas City franchise,
whose reality was shattered last week when linebacker Jovan Belcher shot and
killed his girlfriend, then traveled to the team's facility and killed
The Chiefs played their scheduled home game against Carolina a day later and
"We have to deal with the events of the last few days, and it's not over, and
it may not be over for some of us for most of our lives," coach Romeo Crennel
said, "but time heals all wounds, and so we're going to start working on the
On the field, Quinn is back in the place many thought he'd be a star.
He was drafted by the Browns and their then-coach, Crennel, with the 22nd pick
of the first round in 2007, but was just 3-9 as a starter and compiled a
mediocre 66.8 passer rating before heading to Denver for Hillis and a pair of
draft picks in 2010.
Quinn languished in two seasons with the Broncos before returning to Crennel
in Kansas City and taking over starting duties after several weeks of unsteady
play from Matt Cassel and ultimately a concussion that sent him to the
The former Notre Dame standout completed 19 of 23 attempts against the
Panthers, threw his first touchdown passes since 2009 and was lauded for
eloquent post-game comments in the wake of the Belcher tragedy.
"I feel like I can do a decent job of adjusting to pretty much anything," he
said. "I think anytime you have an opportunity to play more and get more
experience, you're going to continue to grow and improve as a player."
Hillis' return to Lake Erie is his first since an uneven run with the Browns.
He rumbled for 1,177 yards, caught 61 balls and scored 13 touchdowns for
Cleveland in the first season after his arrival, but slumped to just 587 yards
and three scores in 10 games while battling injuries -- and, in the eyes of
some, pursuing a lucrative contract -- in 2011.
"He was everything people knew about him -- hard-working, blue-collar, tough,
would do anything for anybody on the team," Browns lineman Joe Thomas said.
"All he cared about was winning, and then all of a sudden the next year, all
he cared about was trying to get his new contract.
"He crippled our offense. To have Peyton going through a contract dispute and
basically refusing to play, it was a big distraction. I think it was better
for both sides (when he left). At that point, the situation with him here was
toxic and he didn't want to be here and players didn't want him here."
The change of scenery hasn't exactly been a boon to Hillis, who's carried just
59 times and scored once while rushing for 193 yards with the Chiefs. He's
spent most of his time watching starter Jamaal Charles, who's averaging 4.8
yards per attempt and has 1,055 yards for the season.
The Browns have won two straight and been stingy against the run while doing
so. In fact, they've allowed just 65.7 rushing yards per game over their last
three games -- comprising an overtime loss at Dallas and victories over
Pittsburgh and Oakland.
Cleveland's offense gashed the Raiders for 475 yards last week, including 364
through the air from rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, who's connected on
63.9 percent of his passes for 732 yards with four touchdowns and three TDs in
the three-game surge.
And the defeat of the Raiders -- Cleveland's first road win of the season --
has taken at least some of the urgency away from questions on whether second-
year head coach Pat Shurmur will survive to see a third season.
Cleveland was 4-12 in Shurmur's initial year and has former NFL head coaches
at both the offensive (Brad Childress) and defensive (Dick Jauron) coordinator
positions. The Browns haven't won more than five games in a season since they
were 10-6, under Crennel, in 2007.
"I don't want to talk about my future, OK?" Shurmur said. "I'm trying to get
our team ready to play the Chiefs and then after that and so on and so forth.
I don't look at it that way. I'm not taking any half-swings here. We'll just
play it out and see what happens. I feel good about where we're going, we've
just got to keep going."
The all-time series between the teams is even at 10-10-2, though the Chiefs
have won three of the last five games, including a 16-14 decision at Cleveland
in 2010. Neither Crennel nor Shurmur have ever faced this week's opponent.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
One of the consistent bright lights for the Browns has been rookie running
back Trent Richardson, who's gained 827 yards, caught 44 passes and scored
eight times while playing through myriad injuries.
His success running the ball early this week could open up play-action options
for Weeden and stem the aggressiveness of Kansas City linebackers who like to
Richardson didn't reach the 20-carry mark in a single game through the
season's initial seven weeks, but he's run 24, 25, 28, 29 and 20 times in the
last five games and reached 100 yards twice. Additionally, he's caught 20 of
his 44 passes in that same five-game stretch.
The Browns have played well lately and are at home against a two-win foe,
which would be enough most weeks. Add to it that the Chiefs could be in for a
reality letdown after last week's emotional upheaval and it'd appear that this
one would be Cleveland's to lose. If not, Crennel deserves Coach of the Year
votes for his endurance alone.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Browns 21, Chiefs 13
12/06 12:32:33 ET
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