CLEVELAND - The Browns plan to build a balanced offense around a short, possession-type passing game, but Seattle's secondary seemed ripe for some deep pickings yesterday with three expected starters sidelined by injuries.
Instead, the Browns had just two completions go for more than 14 yards and the day's longest success, a 31-yarder from Tim Couch to Quincy Morgan, came on a fairly short lob pass.
Couch and head coach Butch Davis had explanations ready when pressed as to whether they had adequately tried to exploit Seattle's young backups.
“I thought we did test them,” Davis said. “We went deep 12 times, at least, I'd guess. But the wind made it difficult to put the ball deep in the air with any authority. It was a lot easier to try to get 8, 10 yards down the field.”
Said Couch: “We challenged them with some play-action stuff early on. But their front line is hard to block, so it's hard to hold onto the ball long enough to challenge real deep.”
VERBA MOVES: Ross Verba, expected to start at right tackle for the Browns, was moved to left guard and was in the starting lineup yesterday. The change, which is likely permanent, opened the door for Roger Chanoine, a backup who appeared in seven games last season, to start at right tackle.
“We want to put our five best offensive linemen on the field and Chanoine proved during camp that he was one of them,” Davis said.
“It wasn't a problem,” said Verba, a starter at left guard all last season with Green Bay. “I'm a natural left-side guy. It felt good being there. Coach is just trying to put the best five guys out there.”
HALF RIGHT: The NFL's replacement officiating crew faced two replay challenges yesterday and batted .500.
Seattle coach Mike Holmgren wasted little time, challenging a call five plays into the game after a Chris Gardocki punt was caught in the air and flipped backwards by Cleveland's Anthony Henry, allowing it to be downed at the Seattle 1-yard line. The review showed the call to be correct.
The Browns had a call reversed via a challenge in the fourth quarter. An interception by Daylon McCutcheon was first ruled to be an incomplete pass.
“I thought they did a pretty good job today,” Holmgren said of the officials, who penalized his team once for five yards. “They did not throw a lot of flags and they kept the game under control.”
THREE-DOT DATA: Browns were flagged four times, including a personal foul on DB Corey Fuller after a forearm to the head of Seattle receiver Koren Robinson. ... Linebacker Jamir Miller had two of the Browns' five QB sacks. ... Phil Dawson's 48-yard field goal was one yard short of his career best. ... Rian Lindell's third field goal of the day, a 52-yarder, was the game-winner for Seattle, but he missed his first try from 43 yards, which snapped a streak of having made 11 in a row. ... Holmgren notched his 100th career victory, including postseason games. This was his 16th win with Seattle after notching 84 with Green Bay (1992-98). ... Browns help the rival Steelers officially open Heinz Field next Sunday night in Pittsburgh.