Browns bring NFL’s top ground game to Atlanta

Myles Garrett and the Cleveland Browns are fortunate the star defensive end’s auto accident Monday didn’t result in more serious injuries.

In fact, Garrett might be able to play Sunday when Cleveland visits the Atlanta Falcons. He sustained a shoulder sprain, a biceps strain, minor lacerations and assorted bruises, but coach Kevin Stefanski is happy it wasn’t worse.

“Very, very grateful that he’s OK,” Stefanski said.

Garrett sat out Wednesday’s practice. Stefanski is hopeful that Garrett, who has three sacks in as many games along with a forced fumble, can practice and eventually play this week.

Stefanski said he would have to talk with Garrett and make sure he is ready to go.

“Like we do with anything,” Stefanski said, “it’s (a) case-by-case basis. I think you take everything into account.”

Cleveland (2-1) has other injury concerns on defense heading into a matchup against an opponent that ranks a surprising ninth in the NFL in scoring at 26.7 points per game. End Jadeveon Clowney (ankle), tackle Taven Bryan (hamstring), linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (groin) and cornerback Denzel Ward (back, ribs) also sat out practice on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Browns’ offense ranks sixth in the league in scoring at 28.3 points per game. Cleveland’s rushing attack leads the NFL at 190.7 yards per game and quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who is starting while Deshaun Watson serves an 11-game suspension, has tossed just one interception in 92 passes and has played efficient football.

The 1-2 punch of Nick Chubb, who leads the league with 341 rushing yards through three games, and Kareem Hunt has combined for nearly 500 yards. They have helped Cleveland own the ball an average of more than 35 minutes per game, good for second in the league.

Atlanta (1-2) has constructed a similar offense to the Browns’. Cordarrelle Patterson, a receiver and kick returner for most of his career, has suddenly become a real weapon as a running back. Patterson is the league’s third-leading rusher with 302 yards and is averaging 6.2 yards per carry, which ranks fifth in the NFL.

The Falcons have also gotten good play from new quarterback Marcus Mariota. The former Tennessee Titans starter threw for 229 yards and a score last week in Atlanta’s 27-23 win at Seattle. Mariota also unlocked second-year tight end Kyle Pitts, who caught five passes for 87 yards after making just four receptions total in the first two games.

“The ball finally found me,” Pitts said.

But second-year coach Arthur Smith knows that for the Falcons to square their record at .500, they’ll have to figure out a way to neutralize Cleveland’s rushing attack. Smith is billing the game as a “heavyweight fight,” and Atlanta must come out slugging in the trenches.

“They’re a very physical team with a really physical line,” Smith said. “We like to think we’re that way ourselves, but we have to go in there and battle on Sunday to prove it.”

The Browns own a 12-3 lead in the all-time series, including a 28-16 home win in the teams’ last meeting on Nov. 11, 2018.

Headlines