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Offense is really Improving


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By Jeff Schudel




Jeff Forman/JForman@News-Herald.com Brady Quinn and the Browns� offense have scored more points in their last four games (80) than they did in the first nine (78).


The evolution of the Browns' offense this season can be traced to one time period and two events — the bye week and the switch back to Brady Quinn as the starting quarterback. Take your pick which was more important.


Since losing, 16-0, to the Ravens on Nov. 16, the Browns have scored 80 points in four games. That isn't making opponents run for cover, but it is a sharp improvement over the first nine games, including the shutout by the Ravens, when the Browns scored 78 points and were on their way to unchartered offensive futility.


The scoring success, however modest, has taken some heat off offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. Quinn has not thrown an interception since the third quarter of the Ravens game, a string of 145 passes, and over the last four games the Browns have lost only one fumble. One is the fewest turnovers over the four-game span in the league.


So what is the difference, Coach Eric Mangini was asked. Is Daboll calling better plays all of a sudden?


"I think the execution has improved," Mangini said. "That's what it's come down to. Not turning the ball over — that's huge. It gives you extra drives. It gives you field position. Our ability to convert on third down gives you more plays. It gives you more chances. Those were two areas that we've struggled with.


"As we've improved in those two areas, we've moved the ball a lot more effectively. We've scored more points. We've held the ball longer. Just look at the jump in those two categories. The protection has improved. It's been the same approach. It's game-plan specific. It's trying to maximize our strengths. There hasn't been a fundamental shift in how we approach our opponent."


Quinn's strength has always been not turning the ball over. He set a school record at Notre Dame with 95 touchdown passes and another one for lowest interception percentage — 2.43.


The Ravens game was the first after the bye. During the 15 days between playing the Bears in Chicago on Nov. 1 and playing the Ravens, Mangini not only switched from Derek Anderson to Quinn. He also emphasized the no-huddle almost exclusively.


The Ravens game was almost like an experiment of the no-huddle. The Browns never penetrated beyond the Ravens' 45, but Mangini saw enough to stick with it. They scored 37 points the next week in Detroit, then were stumped in Cincinnati, scoring one touchdown on a quarterback draw by Quinn in a 16-7 defeat.


"I've always been a fan of the no-huddle," Mangini said. "It does create problems. We've run it well, and it's not easy to do. I do think that has helped. I think that even when we weren't running it, if we had caught more of the balls that were catchable, if we had held on to more balls that we ended up turning over, I think the production there would have been significantly better as well."


Mangini won't say it, but he apparently believes Quinn is better than Anderson with the no-huddle because he did not make the change until he switched quarterbacks.


Jerome Harrison caught two touchdown passes in a 30-23 loss to the Chargers. Quinn was a miserable 6 of 19 for 90 yards in a treacherous wind when the Browns held off the Steelers, 13-6, but his night was excused because the weather was bad and the Browns rushed for 175 yards.


"Any time you can run the ball well, it's a testament to the guys up front," Daboll said on Friday. "Last game, they played a physical game, and they played with good technique. It's not just those guys. If you look at the perimeter, Mo (MohamedMassaquoi) and Stuck (Chansi Stuckey) did a really nice job down the field blocking. Those runs that you might get four or five yards turn into eight- or 10-yard gains."


The Browns' per-game rushing average has improved from 99.6 yards to 112.2 since the bye.


Before and after


The Browns have improved in 10 offensive categories since the bye, and that takes into account being shut out by the Ravens last month. Here are the numbers, with the results before the bye listed first. All are per-game statistics:


Points: 9.8, 16.0; total yards: 221.1, 279.0; Rushing yards: 99.6, 112.2; passing yards: 121.5, 156.8; red-zone efficiency: 31.32 percent, 63.7; third-down efficiency: 24.8 percent, 40.8; turnovers: 2.9, 0.6; first downs: 12.8, 16.0; sacks allowed: 2.4, 1.8; time of possession: 26:39, 28:59.

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Anderson and the no-huddle go together about as well as oil and water.


You can't run a no-huddle approach with a QB who doesn't have smarts. DA's time management and no-huddle issues were well-documented.


Quinn can do it and will continue to improve with it week by week. Give him a couple more weapons (RB, WR) and a right tackle and we've got a franchise quarterback who'll be ready to take the next steps.

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