New week, same story for Browns

Close losses pile up for Cleveland

11/20/2012
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Browns-Cowboys-Football

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) grabs a touchdown catch in front of Cleveland Browns' Sheldon Brown, rear, in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade) S3 s3browns 2col by full black and white

AP

BEREA, Ohio — Browns coach Pat Shur­mur sounds like a bro­ken record when he talks about his team's bro­ken record.

More times than he'd care to men­tion, Shur­mur has spent his Mon­day news con­fer­ences ex­plain­ing why his young team couldn't win a close game.

It's been a pain­ful, re­cur­ring theme this sea­son for the Browns, who blew a 13-point half­time lead on Sun­day in Dal­las and lost 23-20 in over­time to the Cow­boys, who ex­ploited Cleve­land's in­jury-rid­dled sec­ond­ary in the sec­ond half and cap­i­tal­ized on pen­al­ties — some of them ques­tion­able.

"We just have to find a way to fin­ish," Shur­mur said. "We have a whole locker room full of win­ners. This whole or­ga­ni­za­tion is full of win­ners. We just have to put it all to­gether and do it."

The Browns (2-8) are per­fect­ing the close loss. Ac­cord­ing to STATS LLC, Cleve­land has lost an NFL-lead­ing 18 games by seven points or less since 2010. This sea­son, the Browns have lost five such games and their in­abil­ity to fin­ish what they've started has in­ten­si­fied the pres­sure on Shur­mur, who dropped to 6-20 in two sea­sons and may need a flurry of wins to save his job.

On Sun­day, the Browns were 67 sec­onds away from snap­ping an 11-game road los­ing streak when it all un­rav­eled.

The Cow­boys, aided by two pen­al­ties for 50 yards against a Cleve­land de­fense miss­ing top cor­ner­back Joe Haden, drove for a game-ty­ing field goal with two sec­onds left be­fore win­ning in OT.

It was right there for the Browns. And once again, they came up short. The losses are grow­ing in num­ber along with the frus­tra­tion level for play­ers ac­cus­tomed to win­ning.

"It's real dif­fi­cult, be­cause it's a dif­fer­ence when you're los­ing by 20 points or 30 points," rookie cor­ner­back Tre­vin Wade said. "But just los­ing at the end by one score in well over mul­ti­ple games is re­ally hard and stress­ful. We're just right un­der the hump, and we just need to find a way to get over."

Shur­mur is sure that day will come. He was on a Phil­a­del­phia coach­ing staff that went through a sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence with los­ing tight games. He learned there are no short­cuts and that the only way things will get bet­ter is by work­ing and win­ning.

"You just play. You just keep work­ing on the fun­da­men­tals and you de­velop some men­tal tough­ness and then you go and do it," he said. "That's what it is. There are no for­mu­las for it. That's what you do. You put to­gether a locker room of guys that are will­ing to fight and will­ing to work and then you do what you can to play the next op­po­nent and then you go do it."

The Browns didn't help them­selves with costly pen­al­ties. Dal­las picked up 10 first downs on pen­al­ties, seven of them called against Cleve­land's de­fen­sive backs.

A few of the in­frac­tions against the Browns were bor­der-line calls, in­clud­ing a pen­alty on a hard hit by safety T.J. Ward on the game-ty­ing drive, but Shur­mur re­fused to blame the of­fi­ci­at­ing for an­other gut-wrench­ing loss.

If and when the Browns start win­ning con­sis­tently, maybe they'll get the ben­e­fit of the doubt on calls. Un­til then, their only choice is to work on put­ting to­gether a com­plete, 60-minute game.

"Un­for­tu­nately, deal­ing with ad­ver­sity and de­vel­op­ing men­tal tough­ness is part of this thing as you're build­ing," Shur­mur said. "We know there are go­ing to be some tough days."

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) grabs a touchdown catch in front of Cleveland Browns' Sheldon Brown, rear, in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
S3 s3browns 2col by full black and white
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) grabs a touchdown catch in front of Cleveland Browns' Sheldon Brown, rear, in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade) S3 s3browns 2col by full black and white