Browns headed back to the drawing board
BEREA -- Browns coach Rob Chudzinski knows how important this week's game is. He addressed it in his opening statement.
"It's Steeler week."
Those three words should be enough to prompt the Browns to be ready to rebound, but Chudzinski knows the Browns have to pick themselves up from a disappointing performance against the Bengals because the Steelers are gaining momentum.
"We're disappointed in our performance as a team," he said. "We had too many mistakes and not capitalizing on two early red zone opportunities and then the game got away from us. We have to play better in all phases and we have to do that right away."
Chudzinski said that some of the things that happened in the Bengals game were not typical. The Bengals scored a record 31 points in the second quarter with a fumble return for a touchdown, a blocked punt for a touchdown, as well as a partial blocked punt and an interception return. The Bengals offense had just three first downs during the 31-point surge.
"A lot of things that happened that were atypical," he said. "It was a little less of a snowball, but more about things happening in the game that were out of the ordinary that you don't necessarily expect in a game."
He also said that the mistakes the Browns made against the Bengals can be corrected. With the parity in the NFL, despite being just 4-6, the Browns are currently just one game back for the second Wild Card position.
"I do feel the things we will be able to correct," he said. "It was one game and we have six more to go. There's a lot still in front of us. I am confident the guys will respond. I am very confident the team will bounce back. It's Steeler week and we have to get ready for that."
Chudzinski was asked if he thinks the team learned from playing in a meaningful game with the Bengals, despite losing.
"At the end of the day, it was an important opportunity for us," he said. "We didn't play the way we're capable of playing. We weren't able to get it done at the end of the day. It's important we learn form this experience and we will in the future that the guys will be able to draw from and it will help us in the future."
The Browns were playing for a shot at first place against the Bengals. This week, with the resurgence of the Steelers, the Browns will be playing to try and avoid falling into last place in the AFC North. The Steelers have won two in a row and have the same record as the Browns and Ravens at 4-6.
"They played very well the last few weeks and have come up with some big wins," Chudzinski said. "It's a great rivalry and the records can go out the window (when the teams play. We'll be excited to play them this week."
Ben Roethlisberger responded with a huge game, throwing for 367 yards and four touchdowns in leading the Steelers to a 37-27 win over the Lions after reports last week surfaced that he was unhappy in Pittsburgh.
Chudzinski knows how tough the Steelers can be with Roethlisberger playing well.
"Over his career, he's shown the great player he is in extending plays," he said. "He is unbelievable in the clutch and makes the plays when needed. I have a nothing but the utmost respect for him as a player."
Chudzinski thinks the Browns are a resilient group and have bounced back before. He expects them to respond this week, as well.
"I rely on the guys in the locker room in what I've seen before," he said. "They're a resilient group and a real together group. I have no reason (to feel) otherwise than that they will bounce back and being at home will bring energy to us."
-- Chudzinski said that QB Jason Campbell will be the starting quarterback despite having his worst start of the season against the Bengals. Campbell had a 44.3 rating going 27-of-56 for 248 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.
"You're not always going to play great every game," he said. "I thought he played particularly well in the other two games. He'd be the first one to say the needs to be better. The key to that position is how guys bounce back after adversity or not playing well."
He played the whole game and Chudzinski was asked if the bruised ribs had any affect on his play.
"He said they were fine and it didn't affect him."
On the season, Campbell is 73-of-131 for 809 yards (55.7 pct.) with six touchdowns and three interceptions. His overall rating dropped to 80.0. QB Brian Hoyer was 82.6 and QB Brandon Weeden is 66.2.
-- The Browns had two opportunities in the first quarter to score touchdowns, but settled for field goals. They had a first-and-goal at the two-yard line and later moved to the 10-yard line. Chudzinski said that the Browns had been good in the red zone up until the Bengals game.
"We had some guys open and some opportunities," he said. "We had one batted down and missed another one. Up until this point we had been in the top 10 in the (NFL) in the red zone, but we just weren't able to get it done."
Chudzinski had been very aggressive going for touchdowns thus far in this season. In fact, going into the Bengals game, the Browns were 10-of-19 on fourth down attempts. He said he thought points would be hard to come by with the weather forecast as the game went on.
"Knowing going into the game and knowing the (weather) conditions, I felt points would be at a premium."
-- Chudzinski admitted that losing special teams captain Quentin Groves caused a domino effect on the two blocked punts because he was one of the players who's replacements broke down.
"The effect of losing Quentin was we had to move some guys around," he said. " But, that's no excuse."
One partially blocked punt went for nine yards and it set up the Bengals second touchdown. Later, another blocked punt was returned for a touchdown.
"It was very disappointing and unacceptable," Chudzinski said. "(Special teams) has been a strength for us and we didn't play very well. We had two major break downs. We will address it and it will be taken care of."
-- Chudzinski said that LB Craig Robertson (knee sprain) and WR Armanti Edwards (ankle) had MRI's, but he didn't have the results yet. Robertson was injured early in the game, but returned for a time before he left for good. Edwards was injured on a punt return.
-- In a season the Browns need a running back, Chudzinski was asked about RB Bobby Rainey, who was cut earlier this season from the Browns. He had 13 carries for 34 yards (2.6 avg.) for the Browns. He also caught four passes for 19 yards and returned kickoffs. Sunday, he rushed for 163 yards and scored three touchdowns for Tampa Bay in a win over the Falcons. He also caught two passes. The Browns released Rainey when they activated WR Tori Gurley to the active roster.
"I'm happy for him," he said. "Where we were with the roster, we were short at a couple of (positions) and with special teams."
--Chudzinski cited the level that CB Joe Haden is playing and the leadership he's displaying.
"He's playing at a high level," he said. "He's been impressive with the challenges he's had and has really stepped up as a leader. Our team responds (to his leadership)."
-- The Browns next two games are at home with the Steelers and Jaguars and three of the next four are at home. After a trip to play the Patriots, the Browns return home to face the Bears on Dec.15. The Browns are 3-2 at home, while 1-4 on the road.
The Browns have lost three straight away games, dropping consecutive road games to the Packers, Chiefs and Bengals.
"Teams are generally better at home," Chudzinski said. "Our team feeds off that energy. We have to do a better job of playing on the road. We're excited about playing three of the next four at home."