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Shurmur: Hillis' Success and Decline Against Baltimore Last Year, and More

CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 27:  Peyton Hillis #40 of the Cleveland Browns blocks Rey Maualuga #58 of the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on November 27, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Tyler Barrick/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 27: Peyton Hillis #40 of the Cleveland Browns blocks Rey Maualuga #58 of the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on November 27, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Tyler Barrick/Getty Images)
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Cleveland Browns head coach Pat Shurmur met with the media Thursday afternoon and was asked a lot of questions about...running back Peyton Hillis. In fact, with the number of questions asked about Hillis, you would've thought he was the only player on the 53-man roster.

It feels strange that it is Week 13 and this is the first time the Browns will be taking on the Ravens, but it also provides the opportunity to have nearly a full season's worth of game footage to evaluate. One of the more intriguing questions asked by the reporters involved Peyton Hillis' two performances against the Ravens last year. [Read full press conference transcript here]

(On if he felt Peyton Hillis might not have been 100% on Sunday and if Hillis had the same burst that he has seen earlier in the year)- "I’m getting use to seeing him out there playing again, but I felt like he was at full speed or game speed. It looked like he was competing at game speed."

(On if Hillis looked OK practicing yesterday)- "He looked great yesterday in practice. My conversations with him, he’s told me that he feels fine."

(On if his film studies involve looking at the two Browns-Ravens games from last year)- "I’ve watched both of them, yes."

(On why Hillis had 144 yards in the first game and 35 yards in the second)- "I think in the first game Peyton had a couple of long runs, that kind of adds up the yardage total and he had a terrific game. They came back the second game and he didn’t have quite as much success running the football. There are reasons why and I’ll kind of keep those private, but it had nothing to do with how hard he was running or what the Browns were trying to do. I thought the Ravens probably executed a little better."

(On if Hillis is healthier than he’s been since September)- "I think he’s healthy. You’d have to ask him how he feels compared to being in September, but he looked good player yesterday in practice and I thought he competed well in the game last Sunday so I feel like he is."

(On if having Hillis back helps not only the running game, but the whole offense)- "I still think we’re getting better and becoming more efficient regardless of who the back is, but when you have a top flight running back in there and I think Obi (Chris Ogbonnaya) played in top flight way the last few weeks. But, when you have a top flight back in there, when you hand him the ball and he’s carving out yards, your second down, third down calls tend to be a little bit easier then when they start to think you may not run it quite as much so I think that’s what he gives you. I’ve always felt like a solid running game is the quarterback’s best friend. I love to run the football. If we could run it and gain yards every play and score lots of points, I’d run it every down if that were the case. Obviously, I’m making light of it because it’s important you throw the ball efficiently as well. I think they go hand-in-hand."

(On if knowing he will have Hillis back helps in preparation)- "I think it gives him an edge because of his preparation. He came into this week kind of knowing he was involved, not that he didn’t prepare last week, but there’s that getting my body right and ready phase that he’s still working on of course, but it probably helps him with the details of his preparation. Anytime the guys can all work together for a longer period of time, which is throughout the week, I think it helps you. It at least gives you the best chance to be efficient on Sunday."

(On the reports from a while ago that the team leaders talked to Hillis and that being a distraction)- "Teams work through things. Everybody does a very good job of finding out what happens, but there’s a lot of things that happen that nobody knows about beyond the team so that were just something that came to light. We’re moving forward and I’m hoping all that’s behind us. I’m hoping as we move forward that everybody that we don’t play in the game is a healthy scratch and we’re moving forward in an aggressive way to play that next opponent."

(On if it’s too simplistic to say the offense is better now because of the running game improving recently)- "Like I mentioned, it’s all tied together. When you’re a team that can run the football and once again, when no matter what you call your style of offense, in the years that I’ve been around good winning football in our system, you’ve been good running the football as well as throwing it and I think that’s important. Regardless of who you’re handing the ball to, you’ve got to find a way to be good at running the football. Whether you’re a team that’s going to line up in the ‘I’ and run power O or you’re going to be a one-back team and run off-tackle or you’re going to scheme every run against a perfect look, you’ve got find a way to carve out yardage running the football. Some teams you play it’s tougher than others, but you’ve got to make an attempt to do it because there is just so much that comes off of that."

(On lining Hillis up at the fullback spot)- "We’ve got that, we call it Pony, two halfbacks. We have that in there. That’s been a part of our plan since training camp. Then again, you try to utilize it in a way that best suits their skill set. We were backed up on the one yard line and we put him at fullback and handed him the ball."

(On if he can give three examples of things that the offense can build on)- "Three examples? I’ve got to prepare for these better (joking). I think what you’re looking for is you’re looking for general efficiency and I’ve seen that. That comes after guys have run the same routes over and over and over and over. Targets has become a buzz word now this week. What happens is you run plays over and over and over and the ball could go to one, two, three or four and if it gets all the way to four well he wasn’t the guy we were initially targeting, but that’s efficiency throwing the football. Efficiency running the football, getting a hat on a hat and if there’s an extra one the back makes him miss. It’s about making an effort to score points and we scored more points last week, which was good. Then all the other key factors to offense, turnovers, eliminating penalties. Some of those things I think get lost a little bit because what you’re trying to do is score points and win."