P Shane Lechler during the Raiders 24-17 victory over the Browns in 2011. Photo by Tony Gonzales
The Raiders host the Cleveland Browns in the first of three-straight home games for the Silver and Black. The Silver and Black have a history with the Browns. The two teams first met in 1970 and have faced each other 19 times with the Raiders leading the all-time series 11-8, including a Week 6 win last season. The Raiders have also emerged victorious in two playoff appearances against the Browns - 1980 AFC Divisional Playoff, also known as the "Red Right 88" game, and the 1982 AFC Wild Card Playoff.
The 2012 Week 13 matchup will showcase two 3-8 teams; the Browns coming off a big win over the Steelers, and the Raiders desperately in need of a win to kick-start the final five games. After a rough November, the Raiders are approaching the final five games as a new start. "We talked earlier in the week and really we're looking at this thing as we're 0-0; we've got a five-game season," said Head Coach Dennis Allen. "Let's go out and see what we can do in the next five games. The guys are receptive to that; they're responsive. I think they enjoy playing football and they're ready to get back out there and play again."
The Raiders want to take advantage of their three-game home stand. "I think we all recognize where we're at in the season," said Coach Allen. "We all recognize that we have five games left, the next three games at home. We need to do some positive things. We need to move forward. We need to get better and we're excited about being able to be at home for the next three games."
The Raiders will face an improving Cleveland squad. "They're an improving team," said Coach Allen. "They're 3-3 in their last six games. They won a big game last week against Pittsburgh, created eight takeaways in the game. So I think they're a young team and I think they're a young team that's improving and getting better. They're a big, tough, physical football team so we're going to have to match their physicality on both sides of the ball. They run the ball very well. They've got a real good running back who's tough to tackle. I think Cleveland is an improving football team."
The team knows it's on them to execute the game plan in order to be successful. "We just have to stick to our game plan, execute and do what we do," said rookie receiver Juron Criner.
Criner and his offensive teammates are putting in the work during the week to be ready for the Browns on Sunday. "We just watch and learn, pick up on every tendency we can, and see what certain things give us the best chance of getting an edge on these guys," said Criner.
Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp knows facing the Browns defense will be a challenge. "They're a classic AFC North type of defense," said Coach Knapp. "They're very tough, very gritty. They don't show a lot of different schemes or complexes. But what they do, they do well – an outstanding third down defense. You saw last week's game against Pittsburgh; they had eight takeaways. It's a tough, hard-nosed defense that makes you earn your keep."
Rookie offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom is ready for Cleveland to pressure the quarterback, led by Jabaal Sheard. "Jabaal Sheard, their defensive end on the offensive right side, he's a really high motor guy," said Bergstrom. "He plays very intensely and I think a lot of guys look to that and kind of follow his example out there. He seems like a leader out there."
The offense expects to see a tough pass rush from the Browns front four. "They've always been a salty group, a big, physical group that can rush the passer, but really can stop the run," said QB Carson Palmer. "They can push the line of scrimmage. They have two guys on the edge that can rush the passer. They're just a good, physical group up front."
While the Raiders offense tries to get rolling, the Silver and Black defense wants to keep the Browns offense, led by rookie QB Brandon Weeden, from finding any momentum. "They've got a good mix of young skill players and some guys that they've drafted and developed over the past few years," said defensive coordinator Jason Tarver. "Their offensive line does a good job working together. Their young skill guys are starting to grow together. Their running back is a good player. Quarterback does some good things and their young wide receivers are learning how to work with him, so they have a young nucleus that can be a good offense for years to come if they continue to work together and do the right things."
Weeden has thrown 12 touchdowns so far this season. "I think he's a very mature player," said Coach Allen. "He's an older rookie, but yet still young in experience. But he's really developed as the year has gone on. He's done a nice job with some of these young receivers that he's working with. I've seen a lot of improvement out of him, and a lot of good game management situations by him. I think he's going to be a good quarterback in this league."
The Browns offense is powered by RB Trent Richardson. "Extremely talented offense," said DE Dave Tollefson. "Some big guys up front that are blocking well on top of a running back that runs through tackles. We're going to have to gang tackle this week and really stop the run. That's something we've had a problem with these last couple of weeks. If we can bottle of Richardson and give us a chance on third down, then the chips will be in our favor."
The defense believes their success hinges on stopping the run. "I expect to see a lot of quick stuff," said CB Joselio Hanson. "We all know they're going to try and run the ball. If you can stop the run on first and second down and try to get them in third-and-long I think we'll be successful."
The Raiders defensive backs want to put pressure on Cleveland's young receivers. ""We've got to challenge them, just like we did last week," said Hanson. "Like in the second half, we just got up and started challenging guys and it worked out for us."
The Silver and Black take the field for three-straight home games, starting with Sunday's matchup against the Browns at 1:25 p.m. PT. Catch the game on CBS or follow along on Raiders.com, the official Facebook page and Twitter.