Browns vs. Chiefs: Storylines to watch

By Stephanie Storm
Beacon Journal sports writer

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1. Former Browns running back Peyton Hillis likely won’t get a kind of reception from Browns fans. Those same fans that voted him a Madden cover boy after his breakout 2010 season probably won’t side with him after this week’s verbal sparring in the media with left tackle Joe Thomas. On Wednesday, Thomas, a perennial Pro Bowler, said Hillis was “toxic” during his final season in 2011 when he was seeking a new contract. Hillis responded Thursday by saying Thomas “sounded like a crazy ex-girlfriend.”

2. Perhaps outsiders view today’s game as a boring battle of NFL also-rans. But the Browns (4-8) are eager to extend their two-game winning streak. The Browns haven’t won three in a row since 2009, when they won their final four games and saved Eric Mangini’s job. This team is in a similar situation, fighting to save second-year coach Pat Shurmur’s job with a strong finish.

3. Expect Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll to pull out all the stops against the Browns, who fired them after an unsuccessful run. It wouldn’t be surprising for Daboll to reach into his bag of tricks. Browns kick returner Josh Cribbs is confident the Browns’ defense will be ready for whatever Daboll has up his sleeves. “He wouldn’t run it against us. I’m sure he knows that we know about those plays. If he does run them, this is a shout out to him that we know about it. He’s gotta play the straight and narrow.”

4. Emotions will still be running high for the Chiefs as they continue to grieve and attempt to recover from the murder-suicide tragedy they endured eight days ago when linebacker Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend at their home and then turned the gun on himself at the Chiefs’ headquarters. The Chiefs earned their second win of the season against the Carolina Panthers the day after the killings.

5. There are plenty of connections that go beyond Crennel, Daboll and Hillis. Chiefs quarterback Brady Quinn was drafted by the Browns with the 22nd pick in 2007. Defensive tackle Shaun Smith also played for the Browns for two seasons (2007-08) as did Abe Elam (2009-10). … Chiefs General Manager Scott Pioli was a Browns scouting assistant (1992) and pro personnel assistant (1993-95). … Chiefs assistant head coach Maurice Carthon served as the Browns offensive coordinator for two years (2005-06) and director of football administration. ... Trip McCracken spent 11 seasons (1999-2009) in the Browns’ front office.

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