Without Ben Tate and Jordan Cameron, Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan turned to the no-huddle and rookie running backs Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell. The strategy worked to perfection.
Shanahan and his offense will be put the test again on Sunday, as the Browns host the Saints, who feature a solid defense coached by defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. The son of legendary defensive coach Buddy Ryan, Rob Ryan can give offenses fits with his unpredictable defensive scheme.
Shanahan spoke with the media on Friday about the Saints and much more. You can view the entire presser here, but I have compiled five key points from Shanahan's comments.
1. The Browns will use the no-huddle, but will not depend on it heavily.
Shanahan was somewhat surprised at how successful the no-huddle was against Pittsburgh.
"We thought it would be good, but it was better than anticipated. It's something that got them off balance and tired them out a little bit and tired us out, too. When you do it too much, you get sloppy on both sides of the ball. It ended up working out well for us, it got us some points, got us going."
Use of the no-huddle depends on the defense you are facing, so Shanahan will be selective in its use.
"It's something I did in Washington, too. It's a package you can go to. A lot of it has to do with what fronts we're going against and everything ... It was more about the looks we thought we would get and we thought those plays were good against [the Steelers]. It worked, so we stayed with it. If it didn't we probably would have gotten out of it."
2. Shanahan uses the run to score, not necessarily to set up the pass.
The Browns offensive coordinator likes to run the ball, but does not necessarily to establish the pass. Either way, he was excited at the run game's success against the Steelers.
"I'd like to say that we expect to run for six yards per carry every time, but I don't think that's been done before over the course of a year. That's setting the bar a little bit high, I would love for that to be our goal. Every time we call a run play, we expect all 10 guys to block. We're trying to score on every play. Your goal is to score. We don't call runs just to get three yards. We're trying to be as explosive in the run game as we are in the pass game. I was excited for the guys because they made a big commitment to it, working hard in the run game. I was excited for them to have some success and see it work and hopefully we can work off it this week."
3. Shanahan wants Brian Hoyer to slow down a bit in the pocket.
Starting quarterback Brian Hoyer rushed himself at times on Sunday, which is something Shanahan wants him to avoid.
"I think all quarterback are like that. You gotta keep your same rhythm throughout a game. By rhythm, I mean your tempo of your drop, your feet, going through your progressions. You don't want to speed anything up and force something if the defense is taking away somebody, relax, hitch up, and go to the next one. If someone double teams a guy, it opens up a hole somewhere else. You don't have to force it in there. Sometimes when you have max protection, you don't have as many people out a route, that can happen. If you can get five eligible receivers on a route, or at least four, and they're playing zone, someone is going to be open. Whoever they take away opens up another area and you just have to progress."
4. The running game will get better as the season progresses.
Shanahan was quite pleased with the running game against the Steelers. But his young backs still have room to improve.
"I thought they did a really good job. We expected for West to get some carries with Crowell being our third back. When Tate went down, it kind of flipped roles. West was the main guy with Crowell spelling him. I thought they had some really good runs. They got tired going from the no huddle, they did really well. There were a few things they did wrong that they know about. We do it over and over every week. I think they'll get better at it throughout the year. Going into that game, they were good at the stuff we were expecting. They missed a couple of looks we weren't expecting. The more reps they get, the more they play in it, the more they'll be able to adjust to that. I feel that we'll get better as they go. As you stay healthy, you have continuity, and that's the main thing with having those guys out there."
5. Expect the unexpected against Rob Ryan and the Saints.
Shanahan has experience of going against Ryan. As he told them, there's only so much you can do in preparation.
"In terms of going against their defense, don't get set on anything you see on tape. You don't know what you're going to get from Rob. I've faced him a lot when I was in Washington and he was in Dallas. He's got a helluva scheme. Everything you see on tape makes sense. You see a lot of stuff. I've learned that if you work on that stuff too hard, you're probably not going to see it on Sunday. It can be a whole different thing. You just have to be able to go in there, relax, know your plays and go through your progressions. If you see something you haven't seen before, don't panic. We'll come to the sidelines, we'll talk about it. Always be ready to adjust."