Inside Slant, Notes and Quotes

Blown plays on defense. Missed opportunities and the inability to resurrect a passing game other than quick check-downs hampering Browns offense, despite record-setting passing day for McCoy.

The impression with the Cleveland Browns as they head into a bye week is that Colt McCoy has been throwing largely underneath.

The impression is reality.

McCoy's yards-per-attempt is 5.72 yards, which ranks 29th in the league. The only players behind him are Sam Bradford of St. Louis, Blaine Gabbert of Jacksonville and Kerry Collins of Indianapolis.

The Browns are aware of it. They want to change it. The question is how to do it with a line that has allowed McCoy to be hit too often and with receivers that remain question marks.

All is being done within the prism of a coach learning his team without an offseason. To think the Browns are 2-2 is actually a positive at this point.

"Every week I get a better idea of what they can and can't do because they are presented with more situations," coach Pat Shurmur said. "They are presented with more situations and you see them operating in different situations."

Some of the short throwing against Tennessee was a result of the game. When teams get ahead, they drop deep, give up the short stuff and make a team use time.

But some of it also seems to be McCoy relying too much on the checkdown, not looking downfield and not taking what is there down-the-field.

Addressing this situation must be a focus of the team during its bye week. If the Browns don't try to stretch the field, they will be have a long, long last 12 games.

Do the Browns have a bubbling controversy on their hands?

Running back Peyton Hillis found himself sharing time with Montario Hardesty in the Browns' 31-13 loss to Tennessee on Sunday. This happened after Hillis sat out a game with a fever a week earlier, an action that prompted questions whether he should have played through the illness.

Hillis did not sound thrilled with his role in the loss to the Titans, but sounded like he knew he shouldn't go public.

"That is something for the coaches to decide," Hillis said. "I have no control over that. It needs to be handled by the coaches."

In the loss, Hillis had 15 touches (10 carries, five receptions) and Hardesty had 12 (seven carries, five receptions). Neither back got into any kind of rhythm because the Browns threw almost exclusively after falling behind in the first half.

Hillis was the Browns' workhorse a year ago, and carried the team's offense. He also has been the subject of reports that the Browns are trying to sign him to a contract extension, but that extension has not happened even though the Browns have signed players like Evan Moore and Chris Gocong.

Hardesty played very well in Hillis' absence against Miami, and coach Pat Shurmur said he had clearly shown he was ready for more work. But the split against Tennessee was intriguing, to say the least.

Whether Hillis' situation is just an offense's evolution during the season or a sign of some deeper problem will be interesting to follow as the season continues.

NOTES, QUOTES

QB Colt McCoy set some meaningless team records in the loss to Tennessee, when he completed 40-of-61 passes for 350 yards. The completions and attempts both were Browns records, but neither meant much.

The Browns resorted to throwing almost exclusively after falling behind 21-6 at halftime and 31-6 in the third quarter.

"I had no idea I threw it over 60 times," McCoy said. "But you're kind of forced to do that."

Falling behind does force the issue, and the number of throws indicates that the Browns were able to sustain drives and keep the ball. The problem was they were not able to finish any drives.

But the Browns do not have the offense yet under Pat Shurmur to throw 61 times and win. They simply are not built to win that way, and Shurmur knows it.

"I would never think of throwing the ball 61 times," he said. "For some folks that might be fun. I would never do that if we're in a situation where it's different.

S T.J. Ward had a rough game trying to cover Tennessee's receivers. All the safeties had a rough game.

Tennessee scored its first touchdown when Matt Hasselbeck looked short and drew Ward toward a short route before he threw into the end zone for a score.

His second came on an 80-yard pass and run to tight end Jared Cook. Cook initially beat Scott Fujita on the play, then avoided a terrible tackle attempt by safety Usama Young.

Later, Mike Adams looked lost as he tried to stop Nate Washington on another short catch and long run.

It was a long, long day for all the Browns' safeties.

"We were missing tackles and we were not on our men like we should have been," Ward said. "We take responsibility for that."


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