KANSAS CITY, Mo.
The most fearsome pass rush in the NFL is getting more fresh meat.
The unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs and their bruising defense will be facing a new or backup quarterback for the third time in four weeks when Jason Campbell leads the Cleveland Browns into the hostile environs of Arrowhead Stadium today.
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski benched the ineffective Brandon Weeden this past week in favor of Campbell, who has bounced around the league but hasn’t started a game in nearly a year.
“It was a tough decision, any time you do that, or make that decision at that position,” Chudzinski said. “It was a decision that needed to be made, I thought, from a game-plan standpoint, and again, I think his skill set gives us what we need.”
By that, Chudzinski is referring to Campbell’s experience and elusiveness, both of which should come in handy against a pass rush that leads the NFL with 35 sacks through seven games.
That total puts Kansas City on pace to break the record of 72 set by the 1984 Bears.
“They’re 7-0, they’re undefeated. A tremendous football team, very well-coached,” Campbell said. “I think they’re a team that has a mixture of guys that can play together. It’s a tremendous challenge with them being the last undefeated team in the league.”
Nobody can dispute that fact, nor can anybody dispute that Kansas City has had some splendid fortune this season. Quarterback Jake Locker was hurt when the Chiefs visited Tennessee a few weeks back, and Matt Schaub was out when the Texans came to town last week.
The Browns (3-4) lost quarterback Brian Hoyer to a season-ending knee injury on Oct. 3, and Weeden has played so poorly in his wake that Chudzinski decided to give Campbell his first start since Nov. 19, 2012, when he was still a Chicago Bear.
Rushing the passer is one key to success for Kansas City, just as protecting him will be one key for the Browns.
Here are four more things to think about:
The Chiefs were among the NFL’s best at scoring TDs in the red zone earlier this season, but they’ve taken a step back in recent weeks. Last Sunday, they failed to get into the end zone despite a couple attempts from the 1-yard line.
“I don’t know what that threshold is for what makes you a good red zone team and what doesn’t,” quarterback Alex Smith said. “In the end, you’re not always going to get seven, but you want to score seven more often than not.”
Chudzinski’s decision to bench Weeden for Campbell could mean the end of his disappointing run with Cleveland. The No. 22 overall choice in 2012, Weeden went 5-14 as a starter and has regressed in recent weeks. He’s never seemed comfortable in offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s system and has not been embraced by the Browns’ new front office.
Even though coach Andy Reid and Smith are newcomers to the Chiefs, most of the key contributors were on the team last season. Linebacker Justin Houston, cornerback Brandon Flowers and safety Eric Berry are just a start of the veteran players critical to their success.
This could be the last game with the Browns for wide receiver Josh Gordon, who’s been the subject of trade rumors for weeks. The deadline is Tuesday. Cleveland has reportedly had offers for Gordon, who was suspended for the first two games of the season after he violated the league’s drug policy.