Cleveland defensive end Jabaal Sheard, left, begins to rip the ball away from Indianapolis quarterback Kerry Collins as the Browns held the Colts to 285 yards.
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BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns' defense is ahead of the offense. Just ask the offensive coordinator.
"Defensively," said play-caller Pat Shurmur, who doubles as head coach, "we played a very, very strong game."
The Browns led the Colts 27-12 late in the fourth quarter when they went into a prevent defense. Even after then allowing an 83-yard touchdown drive, the Colts' final total was a modest 285 yards.
Opponents gained more than that in 13 of 16 games last year, and all told averaged 350.1 yards against Rob Ryan's 3-4 scheme.
Coordinator Dick Jauron's defense improved slightly on its outing against Cincinnati, in which the Bengals gained 294 yards.
"The defensive line as a unit played very well," Shurmur said. "Our linebackers covered well and in the secondary, I think we challenged."
Shurmur's offense did just enough for the Browns to win the yardage battle, 303-285.
"Offensively," Shurmur said, "it was a fairly efficient game."
Meanwhile, one reflection of the defense's good work is the fact it has held opposing quarterbacks to a combined 78.0 passer rating. Twenty-six starting QBs have a rating higher than that, and 15 are above 90.0. Of course, the Browns have faced two quarterback-challenged teams. This week, they are preparing for Miami's Chad Henne, who completed just 12 passes in 33 dropbacks against Houston.
Dinking and dunking: Indianapolis tried a bend-but-don't-break approach against the Browns on defense.
"Against a team like the Colts," Shurmur said, "you have to be willing to take 6, 7, 8-yard gains and do it consistently."
Stretching that concept a bit, the Browns had gains ranging from 5 to 9 yards by: Running back Peyton Hillis, four times; tight end Ben Watson, wideout Joshua Cribbs and tight end Alex Smith, twice each; wideout Mohamed Massaquoi, wideout Greg Little, fullback Owen Marecic, and quarterback Colt McCoy, once each.
Extra points: Technically, Joe Thomas gave up a sack to Dwight Freeney, but Shurmur thought Colt McCoy had plenty of time to unload the ball before getting clobbered. Partly, it was a matter of McCoy assuming the All-Pro who protects his blind side would give him all day. "Joe played very, very well," Shurmur said. ... Colt McCoy is 21 of 33 (63.6 percent) for 260 yards in the first halves against the Bengals and Colts. He is 19 of 39 (48.7 percent) for 164 yards in the second halves. McCoy ranks 24th in the NFL in passing yards with 424. He is 23rd in passer rating at 82.2. ... Former Browns left tackle Doug Dieken's radio analysis during a play when Colt McCoy was holding the ball while Joe Thomas tried to keep out Colts sack master Dwight Freeney: "Get rid of it."
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