BEREA — The running game that produced 171 yards against the Ravens and 116 yards against the Bengals the previous two weeks was nowhere to be found Sunday against the Falcons. The Browns rushed 20 times for 48 yards, a 2.4 average.
The Falcons’ 4-3 scheme relies on quickness and uses movement on the line that the Browns hadn’t seen this season.
“I think they played well, I think they had some good ideas in terms of some of the things they did against us,” coach Eric Mangini said Monday. “I don’t think we played very well in that area and when you combine all those things together, it’s usually going to look like what it looked like.”
Peyton Hillis, coming off two straight 100-yard games, carried 10 times for 28 yards as he was in and out of the lineup with a quadriceps injury. Jerome Harrison rushed six times for 6 yards.
“When Jerome goes in, we expect him to perform at a high level,” Mangini said. “I think there were runs that he could have run better, but believe me, he wasn’t alone. He could have hit the hole better. Sometime there was no hole to be hit.
“We didn’t block it very well, and that was across the board. Whether it was the o-line, whether it was the backs, whether it was the receivers, they did a better job defending the run than we did running the ball.”
The way the Browns offense is constructed, they need to have success running to take the pressure off the passing game. Left tackle Joe Thomas said the game plan was to pound Atlanta with the running game, which would slow down the pass rush.
“Everything that happened today was kind of exactly the way they wanted it,” he said after the game. “We feel like we’re a good running offense and we knew how good they were at rushing the passer and we didn’t want to let them get a chance to just tee off in the pass rush. We knew we had to run the ball to win the game, and we weren’t able to do that.”
Mangini didn’t provide an injury update on Hillis, who aggravated the pulled quadriceps throughout the game. Harrison has also been bothered by a sore thigh.
James Davis, in his second year, could be in line for more time if Hillis’ injury or Harrison’s struggles persist.
Mangini said he didn’t regret not challenging the decisive interception of Falcons lineman Kroy Biermann in the fourth quarter. Biermann dived to make the catch and appeared to get both arms under the ball. He returned the interception 31 yards for a touchdown and a 20-10 lead.
“Looking at it even on the coaches’ copy (of the film), it’s hard to think that there’d be irrefutable evidence to overturn it,” Mangini said. “He kind of catches it and spins by, so it looks like he lands on his shoulder.
“I have a lot of faith in Dick McKenzie, who’s with us each game, and his experience as a replay official and head of the replay officials. He doesn’t miss often.
So I didn’t feel like it was a good opportunity for us.”
McKenzie is a former official who lived in Wellington. He sits in the press box with the coaches and advises Mangini on what plays to challenge.
Thomas’ tough day
Thomas, a three-time Pro Bowler, was beaten by defensive end John Abraham throughout the game. Abraham had two sacks — including the one that knocked out quarterback Seneca Wallace — and a quarterback hit that led to a Jake Delhomme interception in the fourth quarter. Mangini had a simple explanation for Thomas’ struggles.
“One, he was going against John Abraham, who’s had 100 sacks the last 10 years,” Mangini said. “He’s a really good player.
“There’s some things he could’ve done better in terms of his technique, could’ve been more consistent with it. When you face a guy like Abraham or any of those real elite pass rushers, one false step, one slow hand and it’s not like some of the guys we’ve faced where you can recover. A small, small difference in technique equals a big play for them.”
- Mangini congratulated kicker Phil Dawson for tying Lou Groza’s franchise record with 234 field goals. “He’s been a good kicker here for a long time and I’d much rather be congratulating him after a win, but we still need to recognize the incredible accomplishment that it is,” Mangini said.
- Mangini said they didn’t try a Hail Mary from the 50-yard line at the end of the first half because he was happy with the 7-6 lead and didn’t want to take a chance. “Sometimes something really good happens and sometimes in a close game you give away seven points trying to generate something that’s just not there,” he said.
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