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Browns need to let McCoy's playmaking ability shine

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Posted Dec. 20, 2010 @ 2:25 p.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

For a second consecutive week, the Browns lost to a team with just two wins, but the loss can't be pinned on QB play. Rookie Colt McCoy, back in the lineup after missing three games with a high ankle sprain, completed 19-of-25 passes for 243 yards with two TDs in the Browns' 19-17 loss at Cincinnati.

McCoy sparked a passing game that floundered the previous week at Buffalo, engineering a six-play, 75-yard scoring drive capped off by a 20-yard TD pass to TE Robert Royal to start the game. Then, with Cleveland trailing 19-10 late in the fourth quarter, McCoy led the Browns back with his arm, hitting Brian Robiskie on a 46-yard TD pass to cut Cincinnati's lead to two points. The Browns would get no closer, but on a day where their defense struggled to stop the run and their offense couldn't consistently establish the run, McCoy's passing was what kept them competitive.

The PFW Spin

The Browns ran only 43 offensive plays Sunday, and 29 were passes (including four sacks). This is a blueprint they may have to use in the final two games vs. Baltimore and Pittsburgh, teams stout vs. the run but sometimes vulnerable vs. the pass.

McCoy had success attacking the middle of the Bengals' defense, hitting TE Benjamin Watson for four completions of 15 yards or more. He also showed a willingness to throw the ball deep. His TD pass to Robiskie came against zone coverage, with the pass just eluding Bengals DB Keiwan Ratliff, who was playing safety. Also, McCoy showed good touch and accuracy on the TD throw to Royal.

One area in which McCoy must improve is sensing the pass rush and unloading the ball before he takes a sack. He has had a tendency to hold on to the ball too long. He was sacked four times vs. Cincinnati and was taken down six times by Jacksonville in Week 11. It's a positive sign that he's willing to give his receivers every chance to get open, but he needs to cut down on the negative plays — and the hits he's taking from bigger defensive players.

But let's be clear: McCoy has helped the Browns' offense, and he has been their best quarterback this season, both the best playmaker of the group and the most careful with the ball. This was his best start yet. If the Browns could have made a few more stops on defense, they likely would have won, considering how McCoy riddled the Bengals' pass defense.

This has been another lost season for the Browns, but McCoy's development is a silver lining — and a reason to watch their final games closely. The Browns weren't afraid to give him plenty of opportunities on Sunday, and they shouldn't backtrack in the final two games. He can handle the responsibility, and the offense needs him to have a big role. 

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