Rams-Browns Preview

BY foxsports • November 9, 2011

The St. Louis Rams fell short in their quest for back-to-back victories.

They might have better luck getting back on track Sunday with a visit to the injury-plagued Cleveland Browns.

After breaking into the win column two weeks ago with an upset of NFC South leader New Orleans, St. Louis (1-7) couldn't hold a slim fourth-quarter lead in Arizona last week. The Rams gave up the tying touchdown with 4:51 remaining, had a potential winning field goal blocked and allowed Patrick Peterson to score on a 99-yard punt return in overtime for a 19-13 defeat.

St. Louis allowed a season-low 262 yards - yielding fewer than 300 for the second straight game - but couldn't overcome its anemic offense, which failed to score a touchdown for the second time this season and saw its scoring average dip to 12.5.

This week, a healthier Rams quarterback Sam Bradford will get to face a Browns defense that might not have safety T.J. Ward (foot), cornerback Dimitri Patterson (knee) and safety Usama Young (hip).

Bradford, who had one practice to prepare for last week's game after sitting out the previous two contests with a sprained left ankle, finished 23 of 36 for 255 yards and an interception against the Cardinals.

"I missed some throws that I normally would make," Bradford said. "That's what was frustrating to me. On some of the deep balls, I wasn't even close. That's just me not being out there."

Rams rookie wideout Greg Salas, who has 27 catches for 264 yards, broke his right leg during the loss in Arizona, but veteran Mark Clayton might return this week from knee and Achilles' issues.

Cleveland (3-5) is also ailing on offense. Browns running backs Peyton Hillis (hamstring) and Montario Hardesty (calf) are both likely to miss this week's game, and receiver Mohamed Massaquoi is dealing with post-concussion symptoms.

Cleveland had problems running the ball last week without Hillis and Hardesty, as Chris Ogbonnaya and Thomas Clayton combined for 38 yards on 18 carries in a 30-12 loss at Houston.

"We just have to be consistent and just trust the scheme," Ogbonnaya said. "Sometimes, it's tough. We've played a couple of great defenses the past couple of weeks."

The Rams have the league's worst run defense, giving up 153.6 yards per game. The Browns haven't proven much better at stopping the run (144.0 ypg), which could mean a big day for Steven Jackson, who has gained 289 of his 579 yards over the past two games.

"He's a tough guy to bring down," Cleveland coach Pat Shurmur said. "He's a key reason why I think in the last couple games they've found a way to move the ball."

Jackson had 41 yards and a touchdown on eight carries the only time in his career he faced Cleveland, in 2007, but left with lower back spasms in the second quarter of a 27-20 loss for St. Louis.

The Rams, who played in Cleveland from 1937-45 before relocating to Los Angeles, have still won nine of the last 13 meetings between these teams including a 26-20 victory in their last trip to Cleveland on Dec. 8, 2003.

This will be the first matchup for Shurmur against the team for which he was offensive coordinator in 2009 and 2010. Shurmur is now mentoring a former college rival of Bradford's, Colt McCoy, who has seen his numbers decline over the past three weeks.

The University of Texas product has thrown for an average of 188.3 yards over his last three games after averaging nearly 240 in his first five. He had a season-low 146 yards in last week's loss as the Browns managed only 172 total yards - their fewest in nearly two years.

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