|Browns confident they'll overcome rough start|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 15 September 2008 21:31|
Other than that, the Cleveland Browns are doing fine.
Just two games old, a season of lofty expectations has taken an unexpected turn - downward.
One day after their first appearance on prime-time TV in five years ended with a 10-6 loss in hurricane-leftover winds to the dreaded Pittsburgh Steelers, the Browns were insisting that their 0-2 start is not insurmountable.
``It's no hole,'' defensive tackle Shaun Smith said Monday. ``The Giants started out 0-2 and won the Super Bowl. We're that caliber-type of team.''
The Browns haven't looked it so far. In home losses to the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh - the Steelers' 10th straight win in the series - Cleveland has been undisciplined, disorganized and inconsistent.
n Edwards has become the poster child for the Browns' early season woes. In two games, Edwards has dropped at least five passes and last week he made news off the field when he was given a speeding ticket for driving 120 mph.
Adding to their troubles, the Browns likely lost defensive end Robaire Smith for the season with an injured Achilles' tendon.
Coach Romeo Crennel didn't provide specifics of Smith's injury, but indicated the 6-foot-4, 310-pounder would be sidelined for an extended period.
``He is not in the best of shape,'' Crennel said. ``For a big man, an Achilles is a tough thing to deal with.''
The Browns were already playing without two key defensive players. Outside linebacker Antwan Peek is out for the season with a knee injury, and safety Sean Jones will be sidelined for several weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. On top of that, cornerback Daven Holly was lost to a season-ending knee injury he sustained during practice in May.
Robaire Smith started all 16 games last season with the Browns, who signed him as a free agent in 2007. Along with Shaun Smith and Shaun Rogers, the 30-year-old gave the Browns a formidable front wall in a 3-4 defense that gave up 382 points last year but is beginning to show signs of improvement.
whether it's practice or in a game. We got a good group of guys and we have to keep them healthy and fresh. This happens every year. When you're called on, you have to be able to do your job.
``It's tough to lose those guys.''
It's not that the Browns didn't have their chances against the Steelers.
Late in the first half, after finally moving the ball across mid-field through wind gusts of 60 mph, Cleveland got to the Pittsburgh 16 when a calamity of errors cost the Browns points. They were late in getting a play called, they botched a snap and were penalized for an illegal shift. By rule, they had to use their final timeout or have 10 seconds taken off the clock.
Crennel chose the latter, but after quarterback Derek Anderson sneaked for a first down, there were only 8 seconds left when Cleveland called its last timeout. Rather than kicking a field goal, Crennel sent his offense back out. Without a way to stop the clock, Anderson needed to throw into the end zone for a TD or to preserve time. But he threw short and was picked off by Steelers safety Troy Polamalu at the 3.
As their fans booed, the Browns, who were outclassed a week earlier by the Cowboys, headed to the locker room in frustration.
Crennel defended his handling of the final minutes.
``I wouldn't change that sequence,'' he said.
And although he's being second-guessed all over Cleveland, Crennel is sticking by his choice to kick a field goal on fourth-and-7 at the 20 with 3:21 left and the Browns needing two scores to win.
Crennel felt his team's best chance was to get three points, hope his defense could stop the Steelers and get the ball back with enough time to score a TD - even though the Browns hadn't gotten into the end zone all game. As it turned out, Cleveland didn't stop quarterback Ben Roethlisberger until there were just 26 seconds left.
Others are doubting him. Crennel is sticking to his guns.
``You stop them and give your offense the ball back, that gives you the chance to win,'' he said. ``You can look at it a couple ways. You can look at it like we could score a touchdown and get it to overtime or you can look at it as it's been almost four quarters and you've scored three points.
``So what are you going to do?''
That line sums up the Browns' current state. Since 1990, only 19 teams have come back from an 0-2 start to make the playoffs.
``The tide will turn for us,'' Jackson said. ``It's disappointing that we're 0-2, but we got 14 to go.''