On a day of mistakes, the Browns’ biggest error was
They weren’t ready.
Cleveland’s defense got caught napping in the huddle by
Cincinnati backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, who threw a 41-yard
touchdown pass to rookie A.J. Green in the fourth quarter and
rallied the Bengals to a 27-17 win Sunday over the sloppy Browns in
coach Pat Shurmur’s debut.
The Browns overcame a horrid start but were done in by dropped
passes, shanked punts, bad decisions and too many penalties,
including one on Shurmur, who accidentally knocked down an official
in the first quarter.
”It’s unacceptable,” said Browns cornerback Sheldon Brown.
”We’re going to find a way to fix it.”
After overcoming a 13-0 deficit, the Browns were protecting a
17-13 lead in the fourth when Gradkowski, who came in for injured
rookie Andy Dalton, outfoxed them. Facing a third-and-11,
Gradkowski and the Bengals lined up quickly and snapped the ball
before the Browns, some of whom had their back to the Bengals,
Gradkowski then lobbed the ball to a wide-open Green.
”It took forever for it to get to me,” said the first-round
Once in his hands, there was no catching Green. He sprinted into
the end zone untouched and the Bengals tacked on some insurance
when Cedric Benson scored on a 39-yard TD burst.
Benson said the Bengals’ trickery was planned.
”The play is designed to catch them napping,” he said. ”We
caught them napping.”
Browns cornerback Joe Haden was the closest to Green, but
couldn’t do anything to stop him.
”We weren’t ready, everybody was scrambling,” said Haden, who
knocked down five passes. ”We were all in the huddle, trying to
get the play and didn’t realize everybody (the Bengals) was already
lined up. Not a good look for us.”
Cleveland fell to 1-12 in season openers since 1999, and
afterward, a red-faced Shurmur wasn’t convinced the Bengals didn’t
at least bend the rules.
”They quick snapped us,” Shurmur said. ”I’ll have to watch
the tape, but it’s my understanding they changed personnel, lined
up and then quick snapped. There’s rules that go along with that,
so we’ll see.”
According to Rule 5, Section 2, Article 10 in the league’s
manual, if the offense makes a substitution, it can not snap the
ball ”until the defense has been permitted to respond with its
Shurmur will likely ask the league to review the play, but it
won’t be overturned. There’s nothing the first-year coach can do
but prepare his squad to play better next week at Indianapolis. The
Browns were penalized 11 times and looked disorganized on more than
”We’ve got a game in seven days,” Shurmur said. ”There’s
plenty of stuff to clean up.”
Colt McCoy threw two TD passes for the Browns, but Cleveland’s
second-year QB went just 19 of 40 and never got into a rhythm. His
first pass was batted back to him for one of his completions, he
tried to dump a pass off to center Alex Mack and McCoy’s final
throw was intercepted.
”I certainly had my bad plays,” said McCoy, who dropped to 2-7
as a starter. ”It’s not one person, it’s all of us.”
The Bengals, thought by some to be on their way to an 0-16
season, showed resiliency and grit.
Dalton didn’t play in the second half after injuring his wrist
just before halftime. The second-round pick from TCU had some nice
moments early on and provided hope for Cincinnati fans worrying the
club would fall flat without Carson Palmer, who continues his
stare-down with team ownership.
But Gradkowski came in and picked up the slack. He wasn’t
flashy, but managed the game and did just enough to pull out the
victory. And then there was Benson, who rushed for 121 yards on 25
carries. Just a week ago, he was in a Texas jail serving a sentence
for an assault conviction.
It’s just one game, but for the Bengals it was an ideal
”We are not worried about what people say,” said Green, whose
only catch was for the TD. ”We are a team and we know what we
Shurmur’s not there yet.
Expectations were high following a strong preseason by the
Browns. Shurmur has a young team, but he’s not going to tolerate
”No excuses,” Shurmur said, his voice rising. ”I don’t care
if you’re a rookie. I don’t care if you’ve been in this thing for
12 years, and I don’t care if this is your last game. You can’t
make mistakes. … I’ve got to do a better job coaching and we’ve
got to play better and then we’ll win games.”
Brown said Shurmur had every right to be upset with his
”He’s ticked and I don’t blame him,” he said. ”We’re all