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Browns faced tough Denver QB, pass rush

Posted Dec 24, 2012

DENVER -- The Cleveland Browns faced a tough challenge from Denver’s quarterback and pass rush in Sunday’s 34-12 loss at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

DENVER -- The Cleveland Browns expected to be challenged by the pass rush and veteran quarterback Peyton Manning, and that was exactly what happened in Sunday’s 34-12 loss to the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

Manning completed 30 of 43 pass attempts for 339 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. With Sunday’s 300-yard game, Manning equaled former Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler for the most 300-yard passing games in a single season, eight. He also tied Brett Favre’s all-time record for the most games with at least three passing touchdowns, 72.

“He sits there and holds the cadence until about seven seconds left on the clock,” Browns defensive end Frostee Rucker said. “I don’t know what he’s saying, if he’s changing the play or they already have one. He just runs his stuff. He’s the best at it. We just didn’t make enough plays and they did. We played the best quarterback in the league. They executed, we didn’t. They executed and we came up quite short.”

Defensive back Trevin Wade said that Sunday was another learning experience for him. In addition to Peyton Manning, Wade has competed against Dallas’ Tony Romo and Peyton’s younger brother, Eli Manning of the New York Giants, during his rookie season.

“It’s pretty tough because he’s a great, Hall-of-Fame quarterback and he did a great job directing the offense,” Wade said of the elder Manning. “He throws the ball, but he doesn’t catch it or run it, so we should’ve done our part better.”

Two of Manning’s three touchdown passes came in the first half on plays where he needed to “thread the needle” to fit the ball into a tight space.

Manning threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and gave the Broncos a 7-0 lead over the Browns with 12:10 remaining in the first quarter.

On third-and-four, Manning took a shotgun snap from center Dan Koppen and threw the ball deep down the left side of the field for Thomas, who ran underneath the pass and caught it as the pass got past the outstretched arms of Cleveland defensive back Sheldon Brown.

With 12:40 left in the second quarter, Eric Decker caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Manning and extended the Broncos’ lead to 14-3 over the Browns.

On third-and-nine from the Browns’ 10-yard line, Manning took the shotgun snap and looked to his left, where he found Decker dragging his route along the back of the end zone. Even with Brown in coverage, Decker went up in traffic and pulled in his team-leading 10th touchdown catch of the season.

“He had amazing coverage,” defensive back Joe Haden said of Brown. “They just put it in the one spot he couldn’t get there. He looked like he touched the ball on both of them. (They were) really good plays by the quarterback and the receiver getting control of it.”

While the Broncos’ quarterback was completing passes at a nearly 70-percent clip, Denver’s pass rush was generating pressure on the Browns’ signal-callers.

Denver sacked starting quarterback Brandon Weeden twice for 16 lost yards. The second sack came with 3:54 remaining in the third quarter. Second-year outside linebacker Von Miller sacked Weeden for a nine-yard loss and injured the rookie’s throwing shoulder. Veteran Colt McCoy replaced Weeden in the lineup and was sacked four times, including on the first snap he took.

Miller entered the game needing one sack to tie the franchise’s single-season record of 17 set by defensive end Elvis Dumervil. Miller registered 1.5 sacks for 12.5 lost yards.

“Throughout the game I thought they did a nice job,” McCoy said. “They let us make some plays, but once we got down tight, they were tough to beat down there. I was glad when we got down in the red zone in the second half. We were able to score a touchdown, but would have liked to get down there a couple more times.”

Browns coach Pat Shurmur added, “The Broncos’ defense, we knew coming in, they are explosive in terms of their pass rush. With the way the game goes, they can bring pressure with their front seven and not have to be too heroic in the back end and it played out much how I thought it would in terms of how they played.”

INJURY UPDATES

The Browns came into the game with a depleted secondary after safety T.J. Ward was placed on injured reserve at the beginning of the week with a knee injury and his replacement, Tashaun Gipson, suffered a foot injury in Thursday’s practice.

They lost Brown to a head injury when he was hit by Denver wide receiver Brandon Stokley while pursuing a tackle on Thomas.

“Sheldon Brown had a concussion so he left,” Shurmur said. “Brandon Weeden has a right shoulder. Trent (Richardson) left the game with an ankle. I do not have much information beyond that, so we’ll have to evaluate them as we go and see where we’re at.”

ROOKIE RECORD

Prior to exiting the game with an ankle injury after he was rolled up on when McCoy was pressured in the pocket, Richardson ran for 53 yards on nine carries. He entered the game needing 46 yards to break the team record for most rushing yards by a Browns rookie (942), which had been held by Pro Football Hall of Famer, Jim Brown, since 1957.

RED ZONE EFFICIENCY

The Browns made two trips inside the Broncos’ 20-yard line on Sunday and came away with one touchdown. On their first drive of the game, the Browns moved the ball to the Denver eight-yard line, but a false start penalty backed them up five yards. The team got back four of those yards, but had to kick a field goal when a third-and-nine pass fell incomplete.

Conversely, the Broncos made six trips inside Cleveland’s 20-yard line and came away with three touchdowns.

“They played a soft coverage on us, so you have to be a little more patient with your throws,” Shurmur said. “There was a penalty that moved us back, too. That took us out of rhythm. At that point, third-and-nine, we took a shot. We had some end zone throws and then, we checked it down with the idea that you could run it in. Then, they defended us and we kicked a field goal. Early in the game, I think it’s important that you get points there, and that’s what we did.”