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Thursday, November 14, 2013
Sputtering run game enough for Browns

By Pat McManamon

Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner discussed the Browns' running game today -- or lack thereof -- and provided a little more insight as to why the team and the coaching staff are satisfied, for now, with its limited production.

The Browns rank 27th in the league in overall rushing with 734 yards in nine games, and they rank 27th in yards per carry with 3.7. Just about two-thirds of their offense comes via the passing game. They have one rushing touchdown, which ranks last.

In their last game, a win against Baltimore, Willis McGahee led the team with 31 yards on 21 carries. Since running for 72 yards on 26 carries in a win against Buffalo, McGahee has rushed for 37, 39, 28 and 31 yards -- and he leads the team in rushing. The best game in that stretch was a 45-yard effort, and it came from wide receiver Travis Benjamin on one carry on a reverse.

Willis McGahee
Running back Willis McGahee hasn't been churning out big yardage, but the Browns keep feeding him the ball to keep defenses honest.
The Browns will live with it, and keep managing it.

Turner said the Browns can work with what they’re getting because it poses enough of a threat to make the play-action passing effective.

In Turner’s offense, play-action passing is vital.

That’s why Turner keeps calling running plays even when he’s not getting a lot of yards. McGahee wasn’t averaging less than 1.5 yards per carry against Baltimore, but he kept getting the ball. It’ s the old belief that the number of carries in a game might be more important than the yards gained.

Turner said the Browns have to play that way, if only to keep defenses honest.

“That’s kind of where the run game has gone to in the NFL,” said left tackle Joe Thomas, who has become quite vocal about how irrelevant a sustained run game is in the NFL. “It’s not about getting points or yards per carry or anything like that, because you just don’t put up a lot of points running the ball anymore.

“It’s more about setting up your passing opportunities with the run game, and making the defense still respect it so you have opportunities to throw the ball down the field to get those chunk plays in the passing game. Nobody in the NFL wins games by running anymore.”

This from an offensive lineman from Wisconsin, where running the ball is sacred.

McGahee, a running back, went even further.

“It’s not football right now,” he said.

McGahee said he’s seen things change, though. He was in Denver when Tim Tebow ran the read-option and receivers had to adjust.

Now running backs have to adjust.

“The game changes, man,” he said. “You got the little backs coming and running the routes now. It’s rare that your’e going to go out and pound the ball. I think it all comes back in a circle.

“Eventually you need that run game to come back alive.”

Time ... as they often say ... will tell.