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Giants vs. Browns: 5 storylines to follow in Week 15


The Giants' winning streak came to an end at four games last week with the 26-7 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Kyler Murray threw for 244 yards and a touchdown and rushed for an additional 47 yards, while the Giants' offense was held to just 159 total yards. Daniel Jones and Colt McCoy were sacked eight times.

The Browns enter this Week 15 matchup on short rest following their dramatic 47-42 loss to the Ravens on Monday night. Cleveland threw for over 350 yards against the Ravens, while the run game produced nearly 140 yards and four touchdowns. However, Baltimore rushed for 231 yards and five touchdowns, led by Lamar Jackson's 124 yards and two scores.

Here are five storylines to follow heading into this battle with the Browns.

Daniel Jones coming off first game back from a hamstring injury

After missing the Week 13 win in Seattle, Daniel Jones returned to action against the Cardinals. The second-year quarterback did not appear to be himself and completed a season-low 52.4 percent of his passes for just 127 yards, his second-lowest yardage total of the season. It was also the first game this year that Jones did not register a rush attempt after averaging 5.0 carries a game through his first 11 contests.

Jones' status for Sunday night remains up in the air, which means Colt McCoy remains a possibility to make his second start of the season. The veteran picked up his first win as a starter since 2014 when the Giants traveled to Seattle and beat the Seahawks in Week 13, 17-12. McCoy threw for 105 yards and a touchdown in the win.

"I haven't decided either way with Daniel..." head coach Joe Judge told reporters before practice Wednesday. "He came out, there's really nothing worse for the wear with the previous injury. He did come out with some bumps and bruises. There's another lower leg issue we're dealing with right now. We're going to go ahead and move him around in practice today, see where he's at.

"I'm going to give him an opportunity this week to work through practice and see how he moves and how he reacts to things. Again, if he can defend himself properly in the pocket as I've said before on how I'll handle it, if he's not at risk beyond any normal game, then we'll go ahead and give him the opportunity to play. If we think that's an issue, that he can't go out there and defend himself, then we'll make the best decision for him long-term and the team as well."

The Browns' pass defense ranks 20th in yards and 24th in touchdowns surrendered through the air. Cleveland allowed Lamar Jackson to put up an impressive performance on Monday night. Last year's MVP completed 11 of 17 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown, but Jackson really made his mark with nine rushes for 124 yards (13.8 avg.) and two touchdowns. Jackson was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his stellar outing in which he led Baltimore to a last-second victory.

Get the Wayne Train on track again

Wayne Gallman had another solid outing this past Sunday. The fourth-year running back carried the ball 12 times for 57 yards (4.8 avg.), marking the second consecutive week in which he's averaged over 4.5 yards per carry and the third time in the last five games. Gallman also added three receptions for 16 yards, the second time he's caught three passes in the last three weeks.

The 12 carries were Gallman's lowest since Week 8, as he had been averaging 18.0 attempts per game in his four previous outings. Gallman was also kept out of the end zone for the second straight game after scoring six touchdowns in the five games from Weeks 7-12.

Cleveland has had mixed results against the run this season. In terms of yardage, the Browns rank in the middle of the pack with their 114.1 rushing yards allowed per game (16th) and 4.4 yards per carry (17th). However, the 16 rushing touchdowns allowed is tied for the seventh-most in the league. Baltimore ran for an average of 7.2 yards per carry on Monday.

Freddie Kitchens to call plays with Jason Garrett testing positive for COVID-19

The Giants found out early Thursday morning that offensive coordinator Jason Garrett tested positive for COVID-19. While Garrett will continue to work remotely, he will not be on the sideline for Sunday night's game against the Browns. Instead, tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens will serve as the team's offensive play caller. Kitchens spent 2018 and 2019 with the Browns.

Keeping Myles Garrett away from the QB

After putting together a few solid performances in a row, the Giants' offensive line struggled against the Cardinals. The unit allowed Arizona to sack Daniel Jones a season-high six times. Three of those sacks led to fumbles, one of which Markus Golden recovered and returned deep into Giants' territory. Colt McCoy finished the game at quarterback and was also sacked twice, leading to a lost fumble. The eight total sacks allowed were three more than any previous game this season for the Giants. Hasson Reddick finished with a career-high five sacks.

"I think there was a multitude of things we have to do better, coaching and playing," Judge said on Monday. "There were some situations where it just came down to they were good in coverage. We blocked for a long time, and Daniel wasn't going to pull the ball and run in some of those circumstances yesterday. Some of those were, you can call them coverage sacks if you want to call them that. But it's all tied together. It's never one person, it's never one thing. It comes down to everybody on the field and the coach with the plan we put together and the plays we call in that circumstance."

The Browns' Myles Garrett is tied for third in the league with 10.5 sacks and second in the NFL with his career-high four forced fumbles, and he's recorded at least a sack in seven of his 11 games. Former Giant Olivier Vernon has registered seven sacks while defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson has 4.5, helping the Browns rack up 34 sacks on the season (t-11th). Cleveland sacked Lamar Jackson four times last week.

"You can talk about Myles all you want, and this guy is a phenomenal talent," Judge told reporters on Wednesday. "But you can't just look at one player on their team. Their entire front is very, very talented. Whether it's Myles on one side or OV (Olivier Vernon) or (Adrian) Clayborn, you can go ahead and pick one. You've got the d-tackles inside who do a great job with the pass rush and penetrate on the run game. To me, we have to protect against all of these guys up front. We have to handle the movement, we have to handle the blitzes that come off the edge, and these are very fast-flow linebackers. Again, they all tie together. There's a tremendous amount of talent on this team."

Slow down Baker

Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield is coming off an impressive outing against one of the league's better defenses. Mayfield completed nearly 60 percent of his passes for a season-high 343 yards and two touchdowns against the Ravens. Mayfield added five rushes for 23 yards and an additional score on the ground.

With his two touchdown passes, the third-year quarterback extended his streak of games with multiple touchdowns to three. During that stretch, Mayfield is averaging 311.7 passing yards with eight total touchdown passes. His 23 touchdowns on the year are tied with Kyler Murray for the 12th-most. However, Mayfield has struggled at times this season. His 2,785 passing yards ranks 18th in the NFL, while his completion percentage of 62.3 comes in at No. 31 among quarterbacks with at least five starts. Only four qualified quarterbacks have a lower completion percentage.

"I love the attitude he plays with, I love the chippiness he plays with," Judge said about Mayfield. "This guy extends plays. One thing he does that's really fun to watch, and you want to eliminate that fun element when you're playing him, but when he's really condensed in the pocket, he finds those small seams. A lot of quarterbacks who you say are mobile quarterbacks rely on really just losing ground and gaining the edge and really using their speed. I think this guy does a great job of playing freeze tag in a phone booth and coming out the winner. He really squeaks his way out, extends the play, and he can either run the ball vertically or throw it down the field. Look, this guy is a tremendous competitor. He has a strong arm, that's not a question. He can make every throw."

The Giants' defense has done a good job of limiting opposing quarterbacks in recent weeks. Over their last four games, Patrick Graham's defense has allowed an average of 188.0 net passing yards per contest while holding Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson, Brandon Allen and Carson Wentz to three total touchdown passes. Murray had the best overall outing of the group, completing 68.6 percent of his passes for 244 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions while adding 47 yards on 13 carries. The defense's 18 passing touchdowns allowed on the season ranks sixth, while the 50.0 red zone touchdown percentage allowed is tied for the second-best mark in the NFL.

Contain the Browns' RB duo

The Browns enter Week 15 with the league's most talented running back duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. The two have combined for 1,653 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns this season, and that is with Chubb missing four games with an MCL injury earlier in the year.

Chubb is averaging nearly 100 rushing yards and 1.0 touchdown per game this year, while Hunt has already racked up five receiving touchdowns. The two have helped Cleveland accumulate the third-most rushing yards in the league this season (156.2 per game) and the fourth-best average yards per attempt (4.9). Chubb's 84.6 overall grade from Pro Football Focus ranks fourth among running backs, while Hunt's 76.0 comes in at No. 19. The Browns also have four different offensive linemen that rank within the Top 10 at their position in overall PFF grade (J.C. Tretter, Wyatt Teller, Joel Bitonio and Jack Conklin), with each grading extremely well in their run blocking.

"Gotta stop the run," defensive back Logan Ryan told the media on Wednesday when discussing how to defend the Browns. "They're the number three rushing attack in football, they have two great running backs, they're committed to the run, a lot of their offense is built off the run game. And I think that their receivers, starting with [Browns Wide Receiver] Jarvis Landry, they block really well, they're extremely tough and him himself is like a running back with the ball. So, I think to defend them you have to tackle well, but it starts with stopping the run in the National Football League and I think the Browns take pride in running the football, so that'll be a great challenge and exciting contest on Sunday night, our run defense versus their run offense."

The Giants have performed well against the run this season, as they enter Week 15 ranking seventh in the NFL with 101.5 rushing yards allowed per game. In addition, Big Blue has given up 3.9 yards per carry (6th) and 11 rushing touchdowns (t-10th), resulting in one of the league's more productive run defenses. The team's group of talented interior defensive linemen, consisting of Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill, has helped the unit perform well against the run, as each one ranks within the top 32 interior linemen in the league in overall PFF grade. Williams has played especially well with his strong 80.6 run defense grade. Blake Martinez and his 74.9 run defense grade has also been a big contributor to the Giants' success against the run, as his 118 total tackles is tied for the fourth most in the NFL.

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