Browns QB Gauntlet Continues

It doesn't get any easier for Rob Ryan's defense. Drew Brees and Tom Brady await...

The string of top-flight quarterbacks the Browns must deal with continues Sunday when they meet Drew Brees and the Saints in the Superdome.

After warming up with the Bucs' Josh Freeman and the Chiefs' Matt Cassel, the Browns ran into Joe Flacco of Baltimore, Carson Palmer of Cincinnati, Matt Ryan of Atlanta and then Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh last week.

It won't get any easier after the bye; they host the Patriots and Tom Brady on Nov. 7.

The quarterback buzz saw explains in part why the run-pass touchdown ratio against the Browns has been so lopsided toward the pass. After six games the Browns have given up only one rushing touchdowns but 11 through the air.   Opponents have kicked five field goals inside 30 yards this season. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan sees that as a tribute to the red zone defense. The fact the Browns have been so stalwart against the run near the goal line is a reflection of that.

"If you just trace the history of it, my group has always done great in the red zone," Ryan said. "The way I like to look that is, I take that as a challenge as a coach because it's at the end of the week and if you look at me I'm not going to win any beauty contests but I know one thing: I can work.

"I see that as preparation No. 1, so when people are sleeping on Thursday night or Friday night I'm working. We're going to prepare. Then obviously it's execution and players' belief in what you do. We have excellent football players here on defense. We have smart guys. If we have to change a lot in the red zone they'll have to do a great job."

It isn't certain, but rookie Colt McCoy will probably be the starter again when the Browns face the Saints because veteran quarterbacks Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace are still nursing sprained ankles. Both were wearing walking boots at the end of last week. McCoy is the third quarterback to start for the Browns this season.

Knowing a rookie is quarterbacking the Browns offense won't make Ryan alter the way he coaches against the Saints - for example, taking more chances hoping an aggressive defense could give McCoy the ball on a short field, or be more conservative knowing a mistake could put the Browns in a hole too deep for McCoy to climb out.

"I'm not going to coach our defense any differently," Ryan said. "As a coordinator on defense, you have just prepare for the opponent as best you can and that's what we'll do. They have so much talent over there on offense and they're really well-coached. They've got a lot of great veteran players that we have to worry about our business."

TRENDING: The Browns are hurting at right guard. Rookie Shawn Lauvao, slated to start before spraining his right ankle four days before the season started, still isn't ready. Floyd Womack (knee) started against the Steelers, but he is not 100 percent.

BY THE NUMBERS: 3.2 -- After averaging 2.4 yards a run against Atlanta, the Browns were held to 3.2 yards per carry by the Steelers.

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Colt McCoy was 23 of 33 for 201 yards and a touchdown in his rookie debut. He threw two interceptions.

--Josh Cribbs suffered a concussion on a helmet-to-helmet hit by James Harrison and did not continue.

-- On the Browns next series Harrison knocked out WR Mohamed Massaquoi with a blow to the head.

-- K Phil Dawson kicked one field goal and now has the Browns' franchise record of 235.

-- P Reggie Hodges nailed four punts inside the 10-yard-line.


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