Shurmur doesn't see many differences in 49ers' defense

October 26, 2011, 6:08 pm
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Cleveland Browns first-year coach Pat Shurmur spent the previous two seasons as St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator, so he's quite familiar with the 49ers' defense.
And despite the 49ers' 5-1 start, he said he does not see many differences this season with the defense his team will face Sunday at Candlestick Park.
"When you watch them schematically, they're very similar -- scheme, coverage, philosophically -- as they were a year ago," Shurmur said Wednesday on a conference call with Bay Area reporters. "I've always felt they were a good defensive team, and I think they've taken it up a notch more this year."Ours might be the same. If you start having success, you build confidence. And they added some good young players who have helped them. They're getting some production out of rookies, like Aldon Smith. And you got leadership in there, guys who have played well in that system for a long time and they're doing the same."Here are some other notes from the call with Shurmur:--On 49ers inside linebackers NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis: "It's a big problem. I was very familiar with Takeo Spikes a year ago, and I tell you what, NaVorro has stepped in and did an extremely good job. They haven't really skipped a beat there. And they can run. They do a good job of going sideline-to-sideline to make tackles, but they also fit downhill very well when you run right at them. That's a pretty darn good tandem of inside linebackers."--On 49ers holding three-game lead in NFC West and five-game cushion on the last-place Rams: "Nothing surprises me in this league any more, regardless of the division," Shurmur said. "I don't know how people predict who's going to be good to start the season. I think that's why you've got to play them out. The 49ers have done an excellent job of finding a way to win their games."Really, with the pickup of one or two players or the injury of another. What happens is your team can change tremendously. So here we sit at the midpoint of the season, and who knows who's going to win each division?"--The Browns expect running back Peyton Hillis to return to action Sunday. He missed last week's game with a hamstring strain."Yeah, I expect he'll be back," Shurmur said. "He'll be out practicing today. He's a full go."Hillis tripled his rushing totals of his first two seasons with 1,177 yards rushing, along with 11 touchdowns, last season. He also caught 61 passes for 477 yards. But there's has been a lot of drama surrounding Hillis, who reportedly is disgruntled that he has yet to receive a new contract. Hillis has been inactive for two games this season.--The Browns are coming off a 6-3 victory over the Seahawks, a game in which they held the ball for nearly 43 minutes and converted 12 of 24 third-down attempts."It's important that you score points in games like that when they're available," Shurmur said. "You can't have two field goals blocked. We had another drive in the third quarter where we threw an interception in the red zone. When the game's tight like that . . . and we knew going in, Seattle's a pretty good defense. I knew going in we were going to have to stand toe-to-toe with them and battle them."--On Browns left tackle Joe Thomas: "First off, he's a pro. Joe's out at practice every day. He's a good pass protector. Obviously, he's a good run-blocker. He's what you're looking for from a left tackle. You don't tend to worry about him so much because he's such a good player. Now, we're going to get challenged this week for sure. Our guys are well-aware of how the 49ers are built and how talented and how explosive they can be. So I think we're counting on him to have one of his better games against an opponent that's going to be a big challenge."--Shurmur did not get a chance to work with second-year quarterback Colt McCoy in the offseason, but he did get a playbook in his hands when it was allowed before the lockout."Yeah, I think any time you don't have a chance to practice, you got to make that up somehow," Shurmur said. "The offseason for all of us coaches went from initially frustration, anxiety to 'OK, that's nothing we can do about it.' When you get them you start working with them and get them as good as you can."McCoy started eight games as a rookie. He completed 60.8 percent of his attempts with six touchdowns and nine interceptions for a 74.5 passer rating. This season in six starts, he's completing 56 percent with eight touchdowns and four interceptions for a 75.4 passer rating.--AFC North teams Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Pittsburgh are the top-four ranked defenses in the AFC."It goes to show how difficult it is to play offense in this division," Shurmur said. "And now we're traveling out west to play another top-10 defense (49ers rank 11th)."--The Browns make their second trip to the Bay Area in three weeks. They lost to the Raiders 24-17 on Oct. 16. The Browns will follow the same routine, traveling on Friday and staying at the same hotel.

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