INDIANAPOLIS – A capsule look at the Colts' opponent this week, the Cleveland Browns of the AFC North.
Synopsis: The 2011 season for the Indianapolis Colts started off much the same as that of 2010, as the Colts were defeated by the Houston Texans in week one, 34-7.
The Cleveland Browns did not fare much better on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, losing to their AFC North and in-state rival, 27-17.
Both teams will be looking for their first victory of the season in week two. Indianapolis hopes to play well enough on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium so past history will be repeated.
Indianapolis consistently has gotten off to a good start at home, winning seven of its past eight home openers. Though the Colts have fared well against Cleveland in winning five consecutive series games dating back to 1999, the outcomes have been close and the games have been contested tightly. The victory margins for the Colts have been by one, five, three, seven and four points, with many of the games hanging in doubt until the final seconds.
The Colts will have to face one of the top running backs in the league this week, and stopping him will be a key to success. In 2010, running back Peyton Hillis rushed for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns while also catching 61 passes for 477 yards and two touchdowns. Against the Bengals, Hillis rushed for 57 yards on 17 carries and grabbed six receptions for 30 yards.
Hillis' ability to come out of the backfield as a receiver makes the 250-pound back only that much harder to contain.
Coupled with an offensive attack led by their standout running back, the Browns also boast one of the premier return games in the NFL.
Joshua Cribbs (7,954) currently ranks eighth on the list of all-time NFL return yards leaders, and is a mere five yards away from passing Desmond Howard for seventh-place on that list. Cribbs has also returned eight kickoffs and two punts for touchdowns, making it essential that the Colts limit his opportunities to take it the distance.
First-year Browns Head Coach Pat Shurmur has helped change the mindset in Cleveland, and he has the Browns moving in the right direction. He knew when he took over the job he was given one of the most explosive weapons in the NFL with Cribbs, and he spoke highly of his returner following the loss to Cincinnati.
"I think Josh is one of those players, he's a very exciting play-maker," said Shurmur. "I thought he did a nice job of getting us jump-started. He's back there licking his chops trying to bring those balls out and I am glad he did in that situation. The guy is a play-maker."
Joe Thomas is another key piece for the Browns, and by signing an extension to stay in Cleveland he advocated his support for the first-year coach.
"Being on a winning team is obviously extremely important for me," said Thomas. "The things that I have seen here in the last couple years, the type of coaches that we are bringing in here, the type of players we are bringing in, the staff that we put together, it's really exciting for me to see the direction that this franchise is headed. That was the main reason that I wanted to stay here, that I wanted to sign a long-term extension and continue to work on this journey."
With a new philosophy and mindset surrounding this team, the Browns will pose a formidable challenge for Indianapolis. However, the Colts will look to rebound from their loss to the Texans and grab a victory in front of loyal fans at Lucas Oil Stadium.
*2011 Record: *0-1, 3rd in AFC North.
*Head Coach: *Pat Shurmur, first season as Browns and NFL head coach (0-1).
*Last game: *Facing AFC North foe Cincinnati, the Browns were able to jump out to a 14-13 lead heading into the half. Browns quarterback Colt McCoy completed eight-of-16 passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, but the second-year quarterback and the Browns offense were unable to produce a touchdown in the second half to match two from the Bengals. Cincinnati scored two touchdowns in the final five minutes to decide the contest. The Browns fell to the Bengals, 27-17, at Cleveland Browns Stadium, and moved to 0-1 on the season.
*2011 NFL Rankings: *Offense – Overall, 27th (285.0); Rushing, 19th (83.0); Passing, 21st (202.0); Defense – Overall, 9th (294.0); Rushing, 24th (139.0); Passing, T-5th (155.0).
*2011 Leading Passer: *Colt McCoy (19-40 comp., 213 yards, 47.5 pct., 2 TDs, 1 INT, 70.1 rating).
*2011 Leading Rusher: *Peyton Hillis (17 carries, 57 yards, 0 TDs).
*2011 Leading Receiver: *Mohamed Massaquoi (3 receptions, 77 yards, 0 TDs).
2011 Leading Sacker: D'Qwell Jackson (2.0).
2011 Turnover Breakdown: -1 (Tied 22nd).
*First-round draft choice: *Phil Taylor, defensive lineman. With the 21st overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Browns selected Phil Taylor, a defensive tackle from Baylor University.
Taylor (6-3, 335), was an All-Big 12 honoree as a senior, recording 62 tackles (35 solo), seven for loss including two sacks, three QB hurries, and one forced fumble.
*Key free agents acquired: *Artis Hicks (Washington) OL; Dimitri Patterson (Philadelphia) CB; Oniel Cousins (Baltimore) OL.
*2010 Review: *In a tough AFC North division, the Cleveland Browns finished the 2010 season with a 5-11 record. Despite finishing third in the AFC North, and failing to make the playoffs, the Browns did have a number of positive outcomes that created optimism for the future.
In consecutive weeks the Browns defeated the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots, improving their record to 3-5.
The Browns also discovered one of the most potent running backs in the NFL with the emergence of Peyton Hillis.
Hillis produced more than 1,500 yards of total offense and 13 touchdowns for the Browns, and established himself as an effective weapon that the Browns could rely upon moving forward.
Last time in Playoffs: L, 36-33 at Pittsburgh Steelers (2002).
*Last time in Super Bowl: *None.
*Super Bowl Championships: *None.
*2010 Pro Bowl Selections: *Joe Thomas OT; Alex Mack C.
Quotable I: On expectations for Colt McCoy:
"For me it's his first year. I know he got some experience a year ago and he was kind of thrown into the fire playing for guys that were injured and he battled and found a way to win some games. That's the way he is. If you track his career all the way back to grade school, he's won a whole bunch of games. He doesn't do it alone, but I think when you have a guy who has that innate ability to be involved with winning then you hope it continues to transfer."
--- Browns Head Coach Pat Shurmur
Quotable II: On Coach Shurmur believing in the running game:
"You know it's great because Coach Shurmur is a great man, good coach and definitely a player's coach. We respond well to him and just because he says that doesn't mean anything to us. I know me and the offensive line are really focusing on this running game. We always have to. We are in the toughest division in the NFL, so we will take that standpoint and we have to work ahead and do the best we can."
--- Running Back Peyton Hillis