Hurting from Ravens, Browns prep for Steelers
BEREA, Ohio (AP)
Quarterback Colt McCoy used the handrail as he gingerly walked down the steps Monday, the lingering result of a weekend encounter with Baltimore's merciless defense.
McCoy's right knee is sprained.
The Browns, on the other hand, appear broken.
One day after being flattened by the Ravens, who rushed for 290 yards in a 24-10 thumping of Cleveland that wasn't nearly that close, the Browns (4-8) began assessing the extensive damage from a defeat at the hands one of the AFC North's co-leaders.
There's little time for review. The Pittsburgh Steelers, undoubtedly smelling brown and orange blood in the water, are next - on Thursday.
''It's quick,'' Browns coach Pat Shurmur said of the short turnaround.
It won't be painless.
''It's going to be real tough,'' cornerback Sheldon Brown said. ''Both are physical football teams and you know they're going to have a physical presence throughout the contest.''
Shurmur did not sugar coat Sunday's rout, which dropped the Browns to 3-18 inside their division the past three years and prompted wide receiver Josh Cribbs to conclude that there's ''a big gap'' in talent between Cleveland and the North's top teams. That already may have been evident, but the drubbing may have left a collective mark on the Browns' organization and fans.
The Browns couldn't stop the run, and they couldn't run it themselves. They dropped five more passes, increasing their league-leading total to 35. And, they once again had a special teams breakdown as Baltimore's Lardarius Webb returned a punt 68 yards for a TD in the fourth quarter to put the Browns out of their misery.
Still, Shurmur insisted he believes his young team is growing, and he's determined to help them develop.
''It's just like everything you do, you just keep plugging ahead, and this thing will turn when we least expect it,'' he said during his weekly news conference. ''We just keep pushing, you just keep pushing.''
Shurmur noticed there were some among the assembled media doubting his message to Browns fans.
''I saw eyes roll in here, so I can tell that that maybe doesn't sink in real well,'' he said. ''But I will say this, all you do is keep pushing. And I don't have the memory of what's happened before. I do know this, though, I've been around teams that have won and have built winners, so I think you just be patient.''
That's easy for Shurmur to say. He's been in town for less than a year while Clevelanders have had to endure more than a decade of dreadful football. With Sunday's loss, the Browns fell to 14-43 inside their division, and unless something miraculous happens over the next few weeks, the club is destined for its 10th season with double-digit losses since 1999.
After playing at Pittsburgh this week, the Browns will visit Arizona before concluding the season with back-to-back games against the Ravens and Steelers - a brutal doubleheader and no way for anyone to spend the holidays.
Away from the microphones and cameras, Shurmur may fear the worst. But publicly he's putting on a brave front.
''I'm still excited to lead these guys and help pull through what it takes to win games,'' he said. ''I'm excited and energized by the challenge that we have ahead. I'm not discouraged - not one bit.''
There's a chance the Browns may have to face the Steelers without McCoy, who was injured in the first quarter of Sunday's game.
McCoy was backpedaling to throw a screen pass when he was hit low by Ravens defensive end Arthur Rhodes. McCoy fell awkwardly, and for a moment, appeared to be in bad shape. He limped to the sideline, but only missed one play before coming back and finishing the game.
Shurmur said McCoy does not have any structural damage and believes he will be able to play against the Steelers.
''He's probably just sore,'' Shurmur said.
And he has every right to be mad at a few of his teammates.
McCoy, who is 0-7 in games against division opponents, isn't getting much help from his receivers. They can't hang on to the ball, and the biggest offender is rookie wide receiver Greg Little, who has had six drops in the past two weeks and has 11 this season.
''You can't drop balls,'' Shurmur said, repeating himself several times. ''You just can't do it, especially when they're catchable.''
The drops aren't helping McCoy's chances of keeping his job beyond the next four weeks. The Browns are using these final games to complete their evaluation of the second-year QB and decide whether to bring him back as their starter or maybe use one of their two first-round draft picks on a quarterback.
McCoy was 17 of 35 for 192 yards, one interception and a meaningless late touchdown against the Ravens.
"He battled,'' Shurmur said in assessing McCoy's performance. ''Every player that plays, you see good and bad things and I think every player needs to be more consistent, and every coach needs to be more consistent.''
Notes: Shurmur said RB Peyton Hillis strained his hip against the Ravens. Hillis rushed for 45 yards on 12 carries and caught a pass for 52 yards in his second game back after missing five straight with a hamstring injury. ... According to STATS LLC, TE Benjamin Watson has the second most drops among the Browns with 7. ... LB Chris Gocong sustained a strained oblique on Sunday. ... Shurmur said safety T.J. Ward will miss his fifth straight game with a foot sprain.