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 environment 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.
“Jason’s a good player. He’s been around the league,” said Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali, who has five sacks in his last two games. “He’s a veteran player and he’s going to make plays. We want to cause a little havoc in the backfield and not allow him to do that.”
Rushing the passer is one key to success for Kansas City, just as protecting him will be one key for the Browns. Here are five more things to think about for today’s game:
• RED ZONE — 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.”
• PULLING WEEDEN — 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.
• CHEMISTRY CLASS — 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. “We’ve played a lot of football together,” Berry said. “The chemistry is there. We’ve been through a lot of different scenarios, different types of situations.”
• GORDON GONE? — 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. The Browns will have to weigh whether those offers are enough.
They chose Gordon in the second round of the supplemental draft last year.
• KEEPING FOCUS — The Chiefs have been living the mantra of one game at a time, even though it’s a cliche. Many of them remember what it was like to win just two games last year, so they’re not taking their success for granted. “I’ve said from Day 1, you don’t get caught up in all that,” Reid said. “That’s fluff. The thing you take care of is you make sure you respect your opponent. You get yourself right. That’s what you control.”
NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE
Cleveland Browns (3-4)
at Kansas City Chiefs (7-0)
• OPENING LINE — Chiefs by 7 1/2
• RECORD VS. SPREAD — Cleveland 3-4, Kansas City 5-2
• SERIES RECORD — Browns lead 11-10-2
• LAST MEETING — Browns beat Chiefs 30-7, Dec. 9, 2012
• LAST WEEK — Browns lost to Packers 31-13; Chiefs beat Texans 17-16
• AP PRO32 RANKING — Browns No. 25, Chiefs No. 2
• BROWNS OFFENSE — OVERALL (26), RUSH (23), PASS (19)
• BROWNS DEFENSE — OVERALL (7), RUSH (T9), PASS (T7)
• CHIEFS OFFENSE — OVERALL (19), RUSH (12), PASS (26)
• CHIEFS DEFENSE — OVERALL (5), RUSH (20), PASS (3)
• STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES — Chiefs are 8-3-1 against Browns in Kansas City. ... Chiefs OL Geoff Schwartz is older brother of Browns OL Mitchell Schwartz. ... Browns starting Jason Campbell over Brandon Weeden at QB. Campbell’s last start was Nov. 19, 2012, for Chicago at San Francisco, a 32-7 loss. ... Browns allowing 4.54 yards per play, second best in NFL. ... Browns have sacks from 13 players, tied for most in NFL. ... Chiefs are 7-0 for first time since 2003, when they started 9-0. ... Alex Smith is first QB to win first seven games with new team since Dieter Brock with 1985 Rams. ... Chiefs’ defense has not allowed more than 17 points in game. ... WR Dwayne Bowe became sixth player in Chiefs history with 6,000 yards receiving last week. ... Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles has at least 100 yards from scrimmage and TD in first seven games, only player to accomplish that feat besides O.J. Simpson (1975). ... Chiefs LB Tamba Hali needs two sacks to pass Art Still (73) for third most in franchise history. ... Chiefs LB Justin Houston is tied for second in NFL in sacks (10). Hali is fourth (9). ... Kansas City leads NFL in turnover differential (plus-11).