CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns are in the midst of a four-week stretch that includes three prime time games, and their latest appearance on Monday Night Football required a cross-country trip to the Bay Area.
The Browns (2-2) will play the San Francisco 49ers (3-0) at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California tonight, and it will be their second road Monday Night Football game in the last four weeks, as they defeated the New York Jets, 23-3, on the road in Week 2.
And while there are no shortage of challenges awaiting in the prime time games, Browns coach Freddie Kitchens recognizes the importance of playing on the national stage.
“I would have made the schedule differently, but they did not ask me when they did it,” Kitchens said. “We are very happy for our fans. To play these prime time-type games, it is exciting for our fans. We just want to put our best foot forward for that particular week, whatever time the game is.”
Here are three things to watch for during tonight’s game against the 49ers.
Handling adversity, success
The Monday Night Football game at San Francisco will be the Browns’ third road matchup of the season and second straight, as they are coming off of a 40-25 victory over the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
After that successful trip to Baltimore, how will the Browns handle the adversity of playing on the road in front of a national television audience?
“Anytime you leave Cleveland, it is difficult,” Kitchens said. “The length of travel adds another piece of adversity. A Monday night game adds another piece of adversity -- more attention. This team is doing a lot of things for the first time. I think they have handled it very well.
“The ones that we have not handled very well, we have gotten better. We have identified a problem, and then, rectified that problem, like we were trying to do during training camp when we would have a bad day at practice.
“All of those pieces kind of come together, and then, you get into the midst of everything and you can pull from those experiences that you have had. I expect our guys to handle this well, and as long as you stay focused and stay in the moment, we will be fine.”
Chubb’s production, usage
Disappointed in himself after a Sunday Night Football loss to the Los Angeles Rams at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 22, running back Nick Chubb took out those frustrations on the Ravens.
With the memory of being stopped on fourth-and-nine in the second half still fresh in his mind, Chubb rushed for 165 yards and three touchdowns, including two third-quarter scores and an 88-yard scamper in the fourth quarter, which helped seal the Browns’ 15-point victory and their highest point total in the 21-year history of the rivalry with Baltimore.
People took notice of Chubb’s performance, as he was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week and the FedEx Ground Player of the Week, but he shared all of the credit with his lead blockers.
“Quiet, hard-working, great guy,” Browns left guard Joel Bitonio said. “He’s the guy you want to have on your football team, the perfect guy.
“Always works hard, always keeps to himself, always gives credit to people even when he’s the guy making the plays. It’s impressive, and I think it’s his upbringing and the person he is on and off the field. I don’t know if you guys watched it, but his mic’d up thing, that’s pretty much who he is. A quiet guy, runs hard and does his part.”
Defending San Francisco’s offense
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is back running the offense after missing much of the 2018 season because of a torn knee ligament, and he appears to be back to form, as he has completed 58 of his 84 attempts (69.0 percent) for 739 yards and five touchdowns against four interceptions and has been sacked only twice this season.
When Garoppolo hands off, the two-headed attack of Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert have combined for 428 yards on 75 carries, while second-year ball carrier Jeff Wilson Jr. has scored all four of San Francisco’s rushing touchdowns this season.
“He looks like he is back to 100 percent and making good throws,” Kitchens said of Garoppolo. “He can make every throw on the field. Making good decisions. He is a very good quarterback.
“They do an excellent job running the ball -- I think 175 yards a game running the ball. Kyle (Shanahan) has always done a great job in the run game and created unique ways to throw the ball down the field. Nothing has changed from that area and he has been very successful doing it.”