CLEVELAND (AP) In case the Browns missed his message Sunday, first-year coach Mike Pettine reminded them that their comeback at Pittsburgh wasn’t enough.
As he reviewed the 30-27 loss to the Steelers, Pettine told his players they need to do more.
”There’s a phrase for almost winning,” Pettine said. ”It’s called `losing.”’
Article continues below ...
This guy isn’t nicknamed ”Blunt Force Trauma” for nothing.
Pettine did find some positives in Cleveland’s last-second loss, but would have preferred to extract negatives from a win. The Browns showed some fight in rallying from a 27-3 halftime deficit, but they dug themselves too deep and dropped their 10th straight season opener. Pettine didn’t sugarcoat things when he addressed his team for the first time following a game.
”I talked about no moral victories and when you guys (media) publish the standings it’s wins and losses,” he said. ”There’s no third column for moral victories. It’s something that we take some lessons from, some hard ones.”
A major issue during the first half, which Pettine described as ”a comedy of errors,” was that the Browns didn’t tackle well. Pittsburgh’s running backs darted around or through Cleveland’s defenders. Pettine said the coaching staff should take some of the blame and his assistants need to do more in practice to work on tackling.
”It is one of the most difficult things to be able to work on because just for obvious reasons you’re not going to tackle live to the ground in practice,” he said. ”But it seems when our guys are into it and focus we tackle better. We’ve got to make sure our minds are right.”
One of the positives to come out of the loss was starting quarterback Brian Hoyer, who brought the Browns back after halftime. With speculation rampant that Pettine would turn to rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel at the first sign of trouble, Hoyer displayed some of the qualities he showed last year while going 3-0 before suffering a season-ending injury.
Pettine praised some of Hoyer’s passes, including a touchdown to speedy wideout Travis Benjamin, but said the QB also missed some potentially positive plays.
”There were some throws that, he’d be the first one to tell you, he would want to have over again – a couple he threw low,” Pettine said.
Perhaps Hoyer’s best connection came at halftime, when he and a few other veterans challenged their teammates to keep fighting.
”I just said, `Look, guys, are we just going to lay down or are we going to go out and see what we’re made of and go and take it one play at a time?”’ Hoyer said. ”For us, it was just about the resolve to go back out there and figure out our identity.”
The Browns did just that in the second half with a solid running game, led by rookie backs Terrence West and Isaiah Crowell after starter Ben Tate went down with a knee injury. West, a third-round pick from Towson, rushed 16 times for 100 yards. Crowell, an undrafted free agent, had 41 yards and scored twice.
”West has come a long way in this system, and I think Crowell is built for it,” Pettine said. ”You could see when their defense got tired, both of those guys were just what the doctor ordered.”
The Browns still came up short, but Pettine said the strong second-half should help the Browns this week against New Orleans.
”It gives us some momentum,” he said. ”We know we’re 0-1, it could be a different had the second half been a duplicate of the first half. To get a taste of what it should look like is a confidence boost for our guys.”
NOTES: Pettine was troubled by the Ray Rice video. ”It was deeply disturbing especially as a father that has two daughters,” he said. ”There’s just no place for that behavior in our society.” …. Pettine did not have an update on Tate or Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Cameron (shoulder). … Rookie CB Justin Gilbert had a rough debut and Pettine said he may cut the first-round draft pick’s playing time. . ”We’re not looking to bench him, but maybe scale back his reps this week.”
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL