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Browns 60-second rant: Offense stepping it up

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Posted Nov. 22, 2011 @ 10:21 a.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

At 4-6, the Browns are on the fringes of playoff contention, but they are alive after their 14-10 win vs. Jacksonville, and today, there is no lamenting head coach Pat Shurmur's play-calling, or Peyton Hillis' absence, or the lack of big plays in the passing game, or any of the other story lines that have dominated so much of the discussion of Cleveland's offense this season.

Those issues figure to come up again, what with five of the last six games coming against Cincinnati, Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Four wins in 10 games, against this schedule, is hardly too much to get excited about.

But in their last two games, and especially in the win vs. the Jaguars, the Browns looked capable of putting up a decent fight against the better competition to come. On Sunday, the Browns gained 6.19 yards per play, their best showing of the season. To give you some perspective, that's about what the Saints (6.27), Cowboys (6.23), Eagles (6.21) and Panthers (6.20) are gaining per play on the season. Those clubs rank third through sixth in average yards per play, respectively.

All of those potent NFC offenses have the ability to make splash plays. Cleveland hasn't shown much punch on offense this season, but it did on Sunday. A 51-yard reception by WR Jordan Norwood set up Cleveland's first TD. A 40-yard run by RB Chris Ogbonnaya in the fourth quarter was the longest by a Brown this season. Though it didn't result in any points, it did set up a 38-yard field-goal attempt that the usually reliable Phil Dawson pulled to the left.

The Browns also moved the ball well enough in Week 10 vs. St. Louis, gaining 5.7 yards per play. However, they scored just 12 points, and no touchdowns. Four red-zone trips resulted in nine points. The Browns were slghtly better converting red-zone opportunities into points Sunday, scoring a pair of TDs in four trips, but a McCoy interception and Dawson's missed field goal almost cost them dearly.

The Browns' paltry point total over the last two games suggests that this is an offense still with plenty of room to improve. The yardage numbers suggest, however, that more points may well be within their scope. If the Browns keep gaining bigger chunks of yards as they did Sunday, the scoreboard may start to reflect a little kinder on their efforts.

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