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Browns 60-second rant: Creativity in run game could have helped Browns

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Recent posts by Mike Wilkening

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Posted Nov. 16, 2011 @ 2:04 a.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

Let's begin with Browns head coach Pat Shurmur's explaination for seemingly playing for a field-goal attempt inside the St. Louis 10-yard line late in the fourth quarter, down 13-12. The Browns didn't attempt a pass on their final three offensive plays.

Here was Shurmur's rationale:

"You could pop a run," he said Monday, according to the team. "You can score on a run play just as well as you can on a pass play. I was not trying to not score. What I was trying to do was run the ball and score. If we didn't, then the advantage to doing that was the clock is running and you are forcing them to use a timeout. If we didn't get the touchdown, then we were in a position to kick a field goal and go ahead. That's what I was trying to do. The defense was playing extremely well.

"I felt confident that if we kicked the field goal and went ahead, then we'd have an outstanding chance to win the football game. We could have thrown the ball and we could have thrown a touchdown or we could have had an incomplete and stopped the clock. There could have been a lot of things to do. We had done a nice job of moving the football basically into that area by running it. We were having some success, and I continued to do it."

Also, on Monday, Shurmur said he had no regrets about not attempting a pass into the endzone.

"No. I'll go to the well with what I did," he said. "I'll go to the well lining up to kick the field goal, making them use timeouts and leaving them nearing two minutes to try to drive and beat us. I'll do that again."

Look, if one of the Browns' three rushes ends up in a touchdown, Shurmur gets kudos for his play-calling. It is what it is. And RB Chris Ogbonnaya's third-down run was briefly promising; if Rams CB Justin King misses the tackle, he might have scored.

But even if you give Shurmur the benefit of the doubt on calling three running plays, you have to ask: Where was the imagination on those plays? (Other than the absurd decision to hand the ball to TE Alex Smith, of course. And even that was just to be a dive play before Smith lost the handoff from Colt McCoy.)

None of the Browns' three final three running plays was in formations that featured more than two wide receivers. There was no attempt to spread out the defense, and the Rams crowded the line of scrimmage.

I have been critical of Shurmur's thought process at the end of the game on Sunday, and I will continue to be. Playing for the field goal wasn't as safe a move as he has made it out to be. It left the door open for the Rams to have potentially won the game with a field goal, not a touchdown, were the Browns to have converted its 22-yard field-goal attempt. The Rams used just one timeout on Cleveland's final drive, and they had a timeout, plus the two-minute warning, at their disposal, if needed, on their final drive.

The confidence Shurmur showed in his defense is admirable. I respect it. Next time, he needs to show a little more confidence in his offense. It's not just a matter of passing. A little formation creativity could have helped. 

The Browns made some costly mistakes at the end of the game on Sunday. The handoff to Smith was a debacle. I doubt we'll see that again, as Smith was in the game for FB Owen Marecic, who had left the game briefly after blocking on first down. Also, I would worry not about the snapping of Ryan Pontbriand, who has done his job well over the years. The same, of course, goes for PK Phil Dawson, who has scored 45 percent of Cleveland's points. 

What's more, I would also think that Shurmur will learn something from this experience. He has coached but a small sample size of games. Let's see how he calls the next close Cleveland game.

This is how some rants end, I suppose — with the ranter taking a deep breath and trying to see both sides. That's how this one finishes, at least.

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