(AP) — Considering how poorly this season has gone for the Cleveland Browns, it’s only fitting that their victory over the defending Super Bowl champions last week has been thoroughly overshadowed.
While no decision has been announced about bringing on Mike Holmgren to head the team’s football operations, the Super Bowl-winning coach’s two-day visit to Browns’ headquarters has first-year coach Eric Mangini defending his team’s progress.
Cleveland looks to win two in a row for the first time in more than a year Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, where it will face a Kansas City Chiefs team also struggling under its first-year coach.
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Mired in their ninth losing season in 11 years, the Browns (2-11) and Mangini quieted their critics for one night with a 13-6 victory over Pittsburgh last Thursday.
“It means everything,” wide receiver Josh Cribbs said after Cleveland snapped a seven-game slide and a 10-game home losing streak.
Despite the victory, questions about Mangini’s methods and the team’s struggles persist.
Browns owner Randy Lerner met with Holmgren on Monday and Tuesday to discuss bringing the former Green Bay and Seattle coach out of retirement.
Mangini, in an interview with a Cleveland radio station, said he had met with Holmgren during his visit.
“I have a ton of respect for Mike, and we’ll see where it goes,” Mangini said of Holmgren, who led three teams to the Super Bowl. “They are still in the early stages.”
It’s uncertain exactly what Holmgren’s role would be if he joined the team, but Mangini remains confident in his performance and what he sees as improvements under his watch.
“They can sit down and talk to the coaches, sit in on any meeting, watch our practices,” Mangini said following last Thursday’s victory. “Come to our meetings. See how we teach. See how we function as a staff because it’s good and it’s right. Come take a look because it’s a good product.”
While it appears that Todd Haley’s job is safe, the Chiefs coach is struggling to turn around a franchise that has gone 9-36 since its last playoff appearance in 2006.
“I don’t have any doubt we’re making progress,” said Haley, a member of the New York Jets staff with Mangini from 1997-99. “It’s tough when you look at the record and see that. I just go on what I see on a daily basis, during the game, after the game, certain responses by players, desire of the players to get better. We’re making progress.”
The Chiefs (3-10), though, lost their third straight Sunday, 16-10 to Buffalo.
A week after getting pulled in the fourth quarter of a 31-point loss to Denver, Matt Cassel threw a career-high four interceptions against the Bills – two coming in the final 2:11.
“It’s frustrating not to be winning,” said Cassel, who has completed 54.6 percent of his passes for the Chiefs’ 30th-ranked offense. “You come out and put so much hard work in each week and to not have the production all the time on Sunday and putting up the W’s for the fans, us and everybody is frustrating.”
The return of wide receiver Dwayne Bowe from a four-game drug suspension might alleviate some of Cassel’s problems. Despite being sidelined since mid-November, Bowe leads Kansas City with 466 receiving yards and four TDs.
The Chiefs’ Jamaal Charles rushed for a career-high 143 yards and scored on a 76-yard run Sunday. Charles could have another big day against a Browns defense ranked 29th in the league against the run.
Cleveland, meanwhile, got its first rushing TD from a running back this season on Chris Jennings’ 10-yard run Sunday.
Brady Quinn, who has not thrown an interception in his last 145 passes, will try to lead the Browns and their 32nd-ranked offense to two straight wins for the first time since Sept. 28 and Oct. 13 of last season.
Cleveland defeated the visiting Chiefs 31-28 in overtime Dec. 3, 2006, in the last meeting.
Kansas City has won three straight at home in the series.