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Tuesday, November 12, 2013
First and 10: The Bengals and the run

By Pat McManamon

This week's First and 10 discusses attitude and approach, in the mind and on the field:

  1. The first time the Browns played the Bengals this season the Browns pretty much dominated. Cincinnati scored six points, did not complete a pass for 20 yards and ran for just 63 yards. After the game, A.J. Green said it was “shocking” and tackle Andrew Whitworth called it “embarrassing.” These Bengals may have been referring to themselves, but the Browns might just remember how their win was assessed.
  2. Also earlier this season, when things were not going well for the Browns D’Qwell Jackson never wavered in his belief that the team would be fine. He always said the team just had to play the way it knew it could.
  3. At the time, in the midst of a losing streak with uncertainty at quarterback, the confidence seemed misplaced and sounded like the same old chatter from a losing team. After all, fans had heard the same words for years. And the words were empty.
  4. But now the Browns have given the fans a reason to hope the words won’t be empty. It’s still near incredulous to see such good feelings over a 4-5 team, but that’s the Browns point of reference. As Jackson said, how the team plays the final seven games will determine how they are viewed this season.
  5. Today is 11-12-13, a date most of us won't again experience. Just thought that needed to be said ...
  6. The question remains about the Browns: Can they succeed without a valid running game? The Browns have thrown the ball 369 times and run 200. That means they are throwing 65 percent of the time. Only Atlanta (70 percent) has thrown a higher percentage of its plays. Only 23 percent of the Browns first downs have come running the ball (38 of 165). That’s the same percentage as Denver, but the Broncos have Peyton Manning and the Browns are flinging it with the Hoyer-Weeden-Campbell trio.
  7. San Francisco passes only 54 percent of the time, lowest in the league. Kansas City, Seattle and San Francisco are ranked 26th, 30th and 32nd in terms of passing yards as a percentage of the offense. The Browns passing yards account for 74 percent of the team’s offense.
  8. What does all this mean? Nothing if the team wins. Rob Chudzinski has correctly said over and over this season that you do what you can to win that week’s particular game. The Browns will stay consistent with that approach.
  9. But managing this non-existent running game remains a constant challenge, and puzzle. At the moment, 48 backs have enough carries to qualify for the rushing lead. Only one has lower per-carry average than Willis McGahee’s 2.6, and that’s Ray Rice of Baltimore (2.5). (Trent Richardson, for those interested, is averaging 3.0 per carry.)
  10. The weird thing is nobody would say McGahee has been a flop. He sees a hole and runs to it, and he gets what he can. The Browns are using the run to keep defenses honest, and they are not abandoning the run even though they’re not gaining a ton of yards. In the win over Baltimore, they ran 29 times. Coaches will say that it’s nice to get a lot of yards running, but it’s more important not to lose the commitment to running the ball. That commitment to still running -- even for three or four yards -- is vital to keeping a defense off balance.