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Sunday, November 16, 2008
Take 2 a bigger challenge for Quinn

By James Walker
ESPN.com

 
 Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
 Brady Quinn had a 104.3 passer rating in his first NFL start, but the Bills' defense should prove a more difficult challenge than Denver's.

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

The leaky defense of the Denver Broncos was just a pop quiz for Brady Quinn.

Now the real test is set to begin.

Take 2 of the Quinn era takes place on "Monday Night Football" (ESPN, 8:30 ET) when he leads the Cleveland Browns into a hostile -- and perhaps snowy -- environment to face the Buffalo Bills. Inclement weather is expected as the game marks the first road start for Quinn and the first legitimate defense he has faced in his NFL career.

Part of the reason Cleveland took the risk of playing Quinn on a short week Nov. 6 is because Denver's defense is tailor-made to build a young quarterback's confidence. Entering Week 11, the Broncos are the fourth-worst defense in the NFL, allowing 389.1 yards per game.

Quinn's First Two Opponents By The Numbers
DateOpponentDef. RankAvg. Yds. PassingTDs Allowed
11/6DenverNo. 29389.114
11/17BuffaloNo. 12309.27

The Denver game looked easy for Quinn, who replaced Derek Anderson as starter. He was efficient, throwing for 239 yards, two touchdowns with zero sacks and zero turnovers. He had a 104.3 passer rating in a tune-up performance.

But unlike Denver, the Bills will not sit back and let Quinn pick them apart. Buffalo (5-4) enters this weekend's games ranked No. 12 in total defense. In fact, only four AFC teams -- the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and New England Patriots -- have played better defense than the Bills.

"Buffalo is a tough team, solid defense all around," Quinn said. "It presents a tough task not only for myself coming into my second start, but for our team going into an environment like Buffalo on Monday night."

If anything, Quinn proved in his first start that he will not fold in the spotlight. Following a high-profile career at Notre Dame, Quinn's first two NFL starts are nationally televised.

"It feels a little bit like college," he said.

 In many ways, Quinn embraces the attention. The former first-round pick has always had a confident presence about him that he belongs in the NFL, even when he was a backup.

Meanwhile, the Browns' coaching staff is trying to keep things simple for Quinn. For the most part, he operated a conservative game plan in his first start against a porous Denver defense. Quinn's longest completion was for 30 yards as he rarely took shots down the field.

"I think you gradually feed him," Browns coach Romeo Crennel said. "I don't think you want to throw the whole thing at him, but he has been in the system now for a year and a half. Like I said, he handled himself very well, he showed he can manage the team, handle the pressure of the game. Now, against a different opponent, we will see how he does against those guys."

 
 NFL.com Video
 A preview of the Week 11 matchup between the Browns and the Bills.

Opponents eventually will challenge Quinn to throw the ball vertically more often now that teams have film on him.

"It's going to get a lot more difficult for Quinn as teams break down his strengths and weaknesses," said Keith Kidd of Scouts Inc. "It will be fun to watch the Monday night game in Buffalo to see how much growth he makes in the offense from his first NFL start."

Raised in Columbus, Ohio, about 150 miles south of Cleveland, the second-year quarterback is happy to finally get an opportunity to lead his childhood team. But the Browns (3-6) are a volatile and dysfunctional group.

Many Browns players are pointing fingers at one another. Starting tailback Jamal Lewis and receiver Joshua Cribbs said that unnamed teammates quit in the loss to Denver. Some players, such as safety Sean Jones, are unhappy because their playing time is being reduced. The head coach also is on the hot seat.

All of these dark clouds are hovering over Quinn's head every day as he tries to keep his team together while proving his individual worth to the coaching staff. Victories will go a long way toward helping both states of affairs.

"I think this [team's] situation and what I've been given an opportunity to do are two different things," Quinn said. "Our record is what it is, and we're going to do our best to turn things around."