Because Horton, the Browns' defensive coordinator, makes no secret that the first principle in his approach to defending the read-option is to hit the quarterback.
“If you want to put a $100 million Ferrari out there, it’s going to get hit,” Horton said. “Is that what you want to do?”
Some might say no, but in the read-option with late pitches and the quarterback running, it’s inevitable he gets hit. Horton would never advocate cheap shots or dirty play, but he loves physical football, saying he wants “big men who can run and small guys who can hit.”
“If you do, that’s OK,” Horton said of putting a Ferrari on the field. “We’ll hit that Ferrari and try to dent it up and kick the tires a little bit.”
Horton’s attitude for this game is reflective of the new attitude he’s brought to the Browns. A team normally used to sitting back and reacting is being the aggressor defensively, and it’s been successful through four games as the Browns have twice given up 14 points or fewer.
Horton said he had the Browns' defense working on a fair amount of read-option stuff, both in camp and as the game approaches.
“We practiced a bunch of different defenses to handle the onslaught of potential stuff,” Horton said. “We think we’re prepared.”
And part of the preparation is to hit Manuel so he knows there is a price for taking risks.
“That’s been my mantra from early on,” Horton said. “If they’re gonna put the quarterback out there to get hit, hit him.”