A mass of contradictions

BEREA — Compare the feelings about the Cleveland Browns from Monday to Monday.

A week ago there were positives and smiles after the Browns beat a woeful San Diego team on an afternoon when the Browns punted nine times.

The week that followed was upbeat, with a tangible feeling that the Browns had a chance for that “definitive win” against Baltimore.

Of course it didn’t happen, and the Browns lost to Baltimore.

Following that loss, there is questioning and lamenting that nothing was handled right, including the pregame introductions and postgame news conference.

The question that must be asked: Is that simply the difference between winning and losing, or are there bigger issues at play?

The Browns, after all, are the team that throws three times on third-and-1 and runs on third-and-11.

A team that scores a touchdown that is called back by penalty, then decides to play for the field goal.

A team that punts from the opponent’s 41 on fourth-and-1 in one game, then goes for the first down on fourth-and-two from their 28 in another.

A team that is 2-7 and has its coach touting “huge” improvement on special teams.

The Browns are a team that has local fans screaming, but had two opponents muttering about the young talent and improvement they see in Cleveland. While Cleveland bashes, John Harbaugh praises, and says, “Write that Cleveland media.”

Done.

But no matter what is called or tried, it usually seems to blow up in the coach’s face.

The third-and-1 passes against the Ravens cry for second guessing, but the reality is that on the second one in Sunday’s loss to Baltimore, the Browns had a touchdown called. But Brandon Weeden overthrew Chris Ogbonnaya, and officials made an odd interference call on Josh Gordon.

Bad coaching? To have a touchdown on the board, but have it slip through because of a bad throw and a bad call?

Pat Shurmur heard and read the entire week leading up to Baltimore’s visit that the Browns had gone 2-for-7 on third-and-1 this season when running the ball. So he threw three times, made one, missed a touchdown on another and missed on the third.

Later in the game he called another touchdown pass, noticed that Ogbonnaya had lined up wrong and yelled for him to back up. Ogbonnaya moved back, but a second late, which negated the touchdown.

After which Shurmur played cautiously, running on third-and-11.

“We were at the top of the field goal range,” Shurmur said. “The field goal there puts us ahead 15-14. I did not want a holding call. I did not want a sack. I did not want anything crazy that knocked us out of that situation. At that point in the game, a field goal puts us ahead. That’s why I made that call..”

He also pointed out Trent Richardson scored on that run in Cincinnati. Which is OK. But it’s safe to bet that Baltimore knew that as well.

As for the now infamous fourth-and-2 from Cleveland’s 28, Shurmur said he understood the questions, especially since he punted on fourth-and-1 from the Colts’ 41 earlier in the season.

He said he has no set philosophy on running or throwing on short-yardage, just that it has to be successful.

“If the defense knows you’re going to do one thing all the time, then the game gets very small,” Shurmur said.

Does he wish he’d done something different Sunday?

“Give them a better play and make it,” Shurmur said.

He added: “I would consider doing something different if I can guarantee I’m going to get the ball back.”

Shurmur pointed out that Sunday night the Giants were down 24-20 to the Steelers and punted from their 13 with 3:07 left and never got the ball back. In his mind, the game was not over with the Browns down 10 because the Browns had a chance to cut it to three. Travis Benjamin was open for a touchdown down the sideline and Weeden threw a bad pass and was intercepted.

That was one of several poor throws or decisions by Weeden, who had a rough game. Somebody proposed to Shurmur it was “a clunker” for the quarterback, and Shurmur said it was a good word. Shurmur said Weeden also could have been more courageous and aggressive near the goal-line on a couple throws.

But Weeden is a rookie, and the Ravens had two weeks to prepare for the loss of their best corner. They threw a surprise at Weeden with a lot of zone when the Browns prepared for man. It showed.

Rookies struggle, but the Browns believe in Weeden, and he’s given them reason to. So you live with the off game.

Shurmur wasn’t hiding form the mistakes — including botching getting substitutions and play calls in one time — but stressed they need to be fixed. As he said: “We saw all the craziness.”

But he’s also similar to the two opponents who pointedly stated the Browns are a young and improving team. He believes in what he sees.

“I remember a year ago,” Shurmur said, “we played the Baltimore Ravens here, and the score was close, but they beat the brakes off us.”

The key now is finding the brakes to put a stop to the craziness so improvement can equal a win.