Colt McCoy escapes from the Colts’ Robert Mathis Sunday. McCoy, who struggled in the opener, bounced back against Indianapolis. He was 22-of-32 passing for 211 yards, helping the Browns improve to 1-1.
associated press Enlarge
BEREA, Ohio —— Pat Shurmur’s second regular-season Monday as Browns coach was nothing like his first.
He’s thankful for that.
When Shurmur arrived at work, the game ball he was presented by quarterback Colt McCoy following his first win at Indianapolis was in his office. He didn’t have to answer questions about a colossal late-game blunder, penalties or his awful punter. With his help, Shurmur’s team quickly put a horrific loss behind it and won.
In their opener, the Browns got caught napping.
This week, they were on the ball.
“When you win, the air breathes cleaner, the water tastes better, everything’s better when you win,” Shurmur said, one day after a 27-19 win over the Colts. “That’s what we all long to do. Aside from the day-to-day issues of the day in the sport and enjoying what we do, the real fun is in winning.
“If you don’t, then we talk about all of those other things that we talked about last week.”
The Browns rebounded on Sunday, bouncing back with a solid all-around performance to improve to 1-1 for the first time since 2007. A week ago, all the postgame chatter centered on an ugly, disheartening home loss to the Bengals, who scored their game-winning touchdown on a quick-snap pass.
On Sunday, the Browns were prepared and poised. They made corrections in three major troublesome areas, and the improvement was noticeable.
Cleveland committed just three penalties after being called for 11 last week. The Browns converted 50 percent of third downs (8 of 16) after getting just 27 percent (4 of 15) against the Bengals. And their net punting average soared from 31.6 to 40.2 as veteran Brad Maynard, signed on Tuesday when the club placed Richmond McGee on injured reserve, came through in his debut.
McCoy too improved after a shaky opener. The second-year QB went 22 of 32 for 211 yards and a touchdown, dusting himself off after being rocked on a blind-side sack by Dwight Freeney in the first quarter.
All of the Browns were better in Week 2.
Shurmur was confident they’d improve.
“I was sure they’d bounce back and play well because I’ve seen them respond to everything we’ve asked them to do,” he said. “That’s what made me sure. They made me right, and I’m happy they did that.”
Several Browns said Shurmur’s positive approach last week played a major role in the one-week reversal.
As bad as things went against the Bengals, and it was bad, Shurmur and his staff did not dwell on the many mistakes that were made. Instead, they used the errors as teaching tools to make the Browns better.
That wasn’t the case under former Browns coach Eric Mangini, who subscribed to the Bill Belichick school of intimidation and humiliation during Monday film sessions to inspire players or at least scare them into doing better.
“The atmosphere is really nice,” center Alex Mack said. “To come to work and not be dreading it from what’s going to happen and how you’re going to get yelled at or what’s going to show up on the screen. Here it’s, ‘guys we made mistakes and let’s get better’ and have a kind of lighter atmosphere. It’s going to help guys stay upbeat. It’s easier to learn.”
“It’s not acceptable to make mistakes, but it’s a learning experience.”
Browns linebacker Scott Fujita detected a renewed focus when he and his teammates began practicing last week. It was then he knew things would be different against the Colts.
“You came in Monday obviously there was a little bit of a hangover last week,” he said. “Guys were disappointed in the loss. That’s a good thing. Losses like that should sting a little bit. It shows that you care. So guys came back in Wednesday ready to work. I think the focus was great all week. Guys were upbeat and positive about it, and that carried over to the game.”
The Browns’ trip to Indianapolis finished better than it started.
On Saturday, the team’s charter plane went slightly off the runway and got stuck in the mud at Cleveland’s airport. The Browns were forced to switch to another jet, delaying their arrival in Indiana by nearly four hours. It could have been a bad omen, but the young team with five rookie starters, shook it off and moved on in much the same way it did after losing the opener.
Fujita feels the club’s resiliency is a positive sign.
“We were dealt some obstacles last week, getting stuck in the mud and all that,” he said. “There were a lot of different things that normally you wouldn’t have to deal with on a normal travel schedule. So all the guys handled it very well. There was a lot of good emotion, kind of an up-tempo attitude early in the game, and it showed.”
There does seem to a new edge to these Browns.
They let a victory slip last week, and safety T.J. Ward said there was a determination last week not to let it happen again.
“Players just taking our own initiative and put our foot down, we’re not going to take this anymore,” he said. “We’re not going to be run-of-the-mill and accept these losses. It was just a team effort.”
NOTES: Shurmur praised rookie defensive linemen Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard for their roles in Sunday’s win. Taylor had five tackles and Sheard recorded a strip-sack and fumble recovery before he foolishly tried to lateral. Shurmur joked defensive players have to be careful because “they tend to be a little more cavalier with the ball.” ... Shurmur wanted to get RB Montario Hardesty into the game earlier, but the second-year back didn’t get his first carry until the fourth quarter. ... The Browns didn’t sustain any notable injuries.