View Full Version : Browns' Hillis key for McCoy

12-31-2010, 11:55 PM
Browns' Hillis key for McCoy
Saturday, January 01, 2011
By Bill Brink, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Browns quarterback Colt McCoy #12 of the Cleveland Browns hands the ball off to running back Peyton Hillis a game against the Steelers on Oct. 17, 2010 at Heinz Field.

Whatever happened to Colt McCoy and the Cleveland Browns during their Oct. 17 game against the Steelers at Heinz Field, it helped their cause.

The 1-4 Browns lost, 28-10, to the Steelers in McCoy's first start, then went 4-2 in their next six games, including victories against the New England Patriots and the New Orleans Saints.

They have lost three in a row since but still present a challenge to the Steelers, who need to beat Cleveland in the final regular-season game Sunday to guarantee the AFC North title and a first-round bye in the playoffs.

"It's always a tough game for us, playing Cleveland," safety Troy Polamalu said.

The Browns broke a 12-game losing streak against the Steelers -- winners of 13 of the past 14 in the series -- with a 13-6 home victory in December 2009. This season, McCoy and running back Peyton Hillis have created a viable offense that has the Browns competing in every game.

In that first game against the Steelers, McCoy completed 23 of 33 passes for 281 yards, with one touchdown pass and two interceptions.

"I think they've all kind of rallied around Colt and realized that they've got a good guy there and they've kind of rallied around him," Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel said. "He's done a good job for them. I think that's the biggest thing is they have some stability there and they haven't had that in a while."

Had McCoy played enough games, his 63.5 completion percentage would rank eighth in the NFL, ahead of Eli Manning, Matt Schaub and Michael Vick.

"I think he's maybe gotten better as the season's gone on," Keisel said. "To have a personality to come into a place like Heinz Field as a rookie and play as well as he did speaks a lot about the kid. Obviously he played against some great competition down at Texas and knows how to prepare himself. We want to make sure we're ready for him when we get up there."

Hillis' transformation into an elite running back has shifted some of the focus away from the rookie quarterback. Hillis has 1,164 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns this season along with 60 receptions for 474 yards. He's big -- 6-2, 250 pounds -- and difficult to tackle.

"One thing you see from him is people miss a lot of tackles," cornerback Bryant McFadden said.

McFadden and Keisel said to stop Hillis, defenders need to stay in their assigned positions and prevent Hillis from finding room.

"It's just important to stay gap-sound. That's what we pride ourselves on around here," Keisel said. "Is everybody doing their job and being in the right place at the right time? That's why we've had success there. If we all do our jobs there shouldn't be any seams for him to go."

Hillis has a rib injury and did not practice Wednesday, Thursday or Friday this week. He is listed as questionable for Sunday's game, but Hillis missed practice last week and still played against the Baltimore Ravens.

McCoy's success has come without much help from his receivers. Tight end Benjamin Watson leads the team in receptions with 61, one more than Hillis, and has 696 receiving yards. Together, Watson and Hillis account for 40 percent of the Browns' receiving yards.

"He's an athletic big guy," McFadden said of Watson. "He runs good routes. He does a good job of getting holes."

The threat of a capable quarterback has kept opposing defenses from putting extra defenders near the line of scrimmage to stop Hillis, who is averaging 4.4 yards per carry.

"You can see McCoy's a lot more comfortable in the offense," McFadden said. "He's played a lot more games."
Bill Brink: bbrink@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1158.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11001/1114828-66.stm#ixzz19lRVmYUr

01-01-2011, 12:11 AM
I like Hillis,tough runner but playing a Steeler defense with banged up ribs doesnt bode well...