Browns show growth with comeback win
BEREA, Ohio (AP)
As the elated Browns celebrated in their locker room, Cleveland's players didn't mind that their win on Sunday was ugly.
Really ugly. Hideously ugly. Repulsively ugly.
Didn't matter. Warts and all, the Browns (2-1) beat Miami 17-16, rallying in the final minute to get a victory that seemed unattainable for 59 minutes. And, in pulling out the win, they accomplished something more, something that may have gone unnoticed to Cleveland's younger players.
''When all the odds are against you, you come back, you find a way, you keep scratching, clawing and digging and you pull it out, it says a lot about the character on this team,'' 10-year veteran right tackle Artis Hicks said. ''One thing you can't coach a team is to fight.
''Either the team has it in them or they don't.''
On Sunday, the Browns showed their grit at the end.
But for most of the day, they were in a football funk.
Quarterback Colt McCoy kept inexplicably missing open receivers and forcing throws as Cleveland's offense struggled to find any rhythm. With running back Peyton Hillis out sick, return specialist Josh Cribbs unable to field punts or kickoffs because of a groin injury and Miami's offense eating up the clock, the Browns seemed destined to lose their second straight home game.
McCoy, though, led the Browns on an 80-yard scoring drive, capped by a 14-yard TD pass to Mohamed Massaquoi, whose leaping, acrobatic catch with 14 seconds left gave Cleveland fans a chance to finally celebrate after so many late, punch-in-the-stomach losses the past few years.
Last season alone, the Browns lost seven games by 7 points or less.
''In the end, winning does wonders,'' linebacker Chris Gocong said. ''It really does boost your confidence and winning like that especially. They say that it wasn't a pretty win, but I thought it was beautiful.''
Following the game, coach Pat Shurmur joked that he had upgraded his team's list of corrections from a ''boatload'' to a ''freighter load of stuff to correct.''
On Monday, the Browns, who are 2-1 for the first time in nine years, began fixing their many mistakes.
Shurmur's first priority is to get the Browns to start faster. Cleveland has been outscored 20-0 in the first quarter of its three games, putting the Browns in early holes and forcing them to have to play from behind. That's a dangerous trend, one Shurmur knows needs to be corrected.
Shurmur feels the remedy could be as simple as getting his players to slow down. The Browns' offense isn't executing early on, and Shurmur said that could be a focus issue.
''That's the message, 'Listen guys, relax and just execute,''' Shurmur said. '''Take the gimmes, get yards on the runs, get into manageable third downs, let's move the football and find a way to stay on the field. ... And then the defense doesn't have to play two-thirds of the game as well.'''
The Dolphins dominated time of possession, holding the ball for 37:51 to the Browns' 22:09, a lopsided statistic that had Shurmur wondering if he had ever seen such an imbalance.
While Shurmur didn't specifically identify McCoy's uneven performance as troublesome, the second-year QB's inaccuracy for most of the game was definitely a problem. Before Cleveland's final drive, McCoy had completed just 10 passes. He also missed several open targets, including wide receiver Josh Cribbs, who had gotten behind Miami's secondary.
Shurmur dismissed a suggestion that McCoy was ''way off.''
''We were just off a little bit,'' he said. ''But a quarterback that's just a little bit off makes it look like you missed by a mile. It's something that we'll work through.''
McCoy may not have been sharp, but his composure down the stretch impressed his teammates.
He also led them on the sideline and in the huddle, urging the Browns to keep fighting until the end. He took shots, and came back for more.
''He showed that he was a tough kid,'' Hicks said. ''Honestly, we got him hit a couple times and each time he got up and shook it off like nothing happened. To have the poise to sit in the pocket and make the next big throw says a lot about a quarterback, because not too many guys like to get hit.
''He was hit a few times and it didn't deter him from sitting in the pocket and stepping down off that hill and delivering the ball. It says a lot about his toughness.''
The win may have also shown that the Browns are growing and getting better.
''It's a confidence-builder, because we know that it might not be pretty, it might not be perfect, but we still found a way to come out with the win,'' said Hicks, who started for Philadelphia in the 2005 Super Bowl. ''I've been part of some good teams and I've had some big wins, but yesterday's meant a little bit more to me than winning by 21.
''You really get to measure what a team's all about in tough circumstances. The feeling afterwards was the best feeling I've had in a couple years.''
Notes: RB Peyton Hillis attended team meetings, one day after being sent home before the game with strep throat. Shurmur said Hillis is ''getting better.'' Hillis spent Saturday night at the team hotel and the Browns were hoping he could play. But when his symptoms worsened, they told him to get rest. ... CB Sheldon Brown and LB Gocong both strained groins Sunday and could be limited in practice this week. Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas strained his knee and could be ''limited early in the week.''