Browns take it down to wire again
BEREA, Ohio (AP)
As the Jacksonville Jaguars lined up for Sunday's final play, a snap from Cleveland's 1-yard line that would determine the game's outcome, Browns coach Pat Shurmur didn't ask for any divine intervention.
He did that earlier.
''I do the Hail Mary's before the game and hope they last throughout,'' he joked.
On Sunday, they held up.
The Browns, who have had a flair for the dramatic in recent years, held on for a 14-10 win that took some heat off their first-year coach. If Jacksonville had scored, and that may have happened if the Jaguars had given the ball to bowling ball-back Maurice Jones-Drew, Shurmur knows how he and thousands of Cleveland fans would be feeling.
''Like last Monday,'' he said.
One week after a 13-12 loss to St. Louis that wobbled their confidence and bruised their collective psyche, the Browns (4-6) were able to hang on. It wasn't easy. It wasn't pretty. And, it wasn't without controversy. But it was a win, a much-needed win - and in a bottom-line business that's all that matters.
For all their detailed planning, the endless hours of breaking down game film and dissecting of opponents that NFL coaches do on a weekly basis, invariably a game comes down to one play: Win or lose. Heads or tails. Odds or evens. Yes or no. Fired or new contract.
''That's the reality,'' Shurmur said. ''How many games come down to the last drive? How many come down to the last play? You watch the clips every week. My goodness. It comes down to the last drive and it's 4th-and-6 and you either get it or you don't. That's just the reality of it.''
The Browns have had more than their share of nail-biters.
According to STATS LLC, Cleveland has been in 49 games decided by four points or less since 2002. The Browns' record is 22-27 in those games, which includes a playoff loss to Pittsburgh. Also, they have been in 87 games decided by eight points or less - third-most in the league - and the Browns have gone 39-48, which helps explain their playoff drought over the past decade.
Already this season, the Browns have been in four games decided by four points or less.
''I like suspense,'' right tackle Tony Pashos said. ''But man, this is a little too much.''
It may not change anytime soon for the Browns, who starting this week in Cincinnati will enter the toughest part of their schedule. Over the next six weeks, Cleveland will play five games against the three teams ahead of them in the AFC North. The Browns will play Baltimore and Pittsburgh twice apiece and must go on the road for three straight weeks in December.
That daunting schedule made Sunday's win that much more important because there's no guarantee they'll get another one.
Although the Browns barely squeaked past a three-win team Sunday, there were plenty of positives for Shurmur to discuss during his weekly news conference.
For the first time in weeks, Cleveland's running game had a spark as Chris Ogbonnaya's 115-yard performance while filling in for injured backs Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty took some pressure off quarterback Colt McCoy.
The Browns finally ended their 158-minute-long TD drought at home with a pair of lengthy scoring drives. McCoy directed the Browns on TD drives of 87 and 85 yards, capping the latter by rolling right to avoid pressure and throwing a 3-yard TD pass to wide receiver Josh Cribbs with 12:15 left.
One of Cleveland's biggest problems this season has been an inability to finish drives into the red zone with touchdowns. For a change, kicker Phil Dawson wasn't the Browns' only scorer.
''That's to be commended,'' Shurmur said of the long drives. ''Let's not forget, though, that this game is about scoring. When you've got the ball, they don't, so you want to finish long drives with touchdowns, hopefully. It says that there was a lot of players doing a lot of things right and I think that's what you build with.''
Aside from Ogbonnaya, no player had a bigger impact on Sunday's win than McCoy, who may have had his best game this season.
McCoy went 17 of 24 for 199 yards, completing more than 70 percent of his passes for the second week in a row. Accuracy is imperative in Shurmur's West Coast offense, and the coach thinks McCoy and the club's young receivers are beginning to build chemistry.
''They're getting more and more comfortable with each other,'' Shurmur said. ''We had a good week of practice. It's important for the timing and where they're going to be and getting used to seeing where they're going to be and being able to make those throws.''
Shurmur said McCoy's right shoulder withstood some big hits by the Jaguars and that he's ''fine'' physically.
As for his young quarterback's mental game, Shurmur said he's seeing progress from McCoy, who appears more comfortable in the offense and is not allowing himself to be affected by any mistakes.
''There's some areas where he's exerting himself more,'' Shurmur said. ''I thought starting the year that Colt was a rookie. This is game 11, so we're getting there. He's had the benefit of those other games he's played and I think there's some areas where I see, OK, he's getting it.' And then there's other areas where we're still working.''
Notes: Shurmur ruled RB Peyton Hillis (hamstring) out for the sixth straight game with a hamstring injury. Shurmur expects Hillis to return this season, but he's not sure when. ... FB Owen Marecic sustained a concussion Sunday. Shurmur doesn't know yet if he can play this week. ... S T.J. Ward will sit out his third straight game with a foot sprain. ... Hardesty could be back this week after missing three games with a calf injury, but Shurmur said the team will continue to be cautious. ... Shurmur said DE Emmanuel Stephens has won the starting job over Jayme Mitchell.