All week long, the Cleveland Browns have reflected on what well in the second half at Pittsburgh.
Brian Hoyer looked as sharp as he ever has in the NFL. Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell floored fans with their powerful running styles. Paul Kruger and the defense buckled down.
It's time to recognize the unit that played extremely well: the offensive line.
"When you can knock off 14, 18, 20-yard runs and keep clipping, and never even get to third-down, you are going to score a lot of points," said Thomas." Because that becomes really hard for a defense to try and figure out what to do to stop you."
Thomas says the reason the Browns weren't successful in the first half, is because the team wasn't converting third downs.
"Third and one, third and four…those are ones that should be a high percentage and we weren't able to stay on the field," said Thomas. "In the second half, we didn't even get in that situation."
The interesting part of the second half no-huddle attack against the Steelers is that the rapid pace does tire out the 300-pound offensive linemen. Plus, the Browns' zone-blocking system requires the linemen to sometimes stretch their blocks as far as the sideline. There is much more sprinting for Cleveland tackles and guards than most other NFL offenses. If the offensive line started dragging, plays like West's 29-yard scamper aren't possible.
But luckily for Cleveland, there has been a stronger emphasis placed on being in tip-top shape. The unit was able to set the tone in the second half against the Steelers, winning the war in the trenches.
Some of Thomas' teammates, like John Greco, have transformed their bodies to perform with their wider range of responsibilities. And if you look at the tape, Greco was often seen rumbling down the field setting up blocks for chunk running plays.
"Last year Greco was more of a bigger, heavier, stout guard. He lost that weight and now he's almost a stealth, skinny guy," said Thomas with a smile.
Thomas was excused from practice Wednesday to be by his wife Annie's side. The couple welcomed their second daughter to the world late in the evening.
"Everything went well," said Thomas. "Mom and baby are doing good. And I'm back at work already."
Lock your doors and be safe cleveland. You know why. I know I'm ready. — Billy Winn (@BillyBoi90) September 12, 2014