ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge
BEREA, Ohio — Brandon Weeden's body bore the ugly marks of an afternoon spent under attack.
As he dressed following Sunday's season-opening, 23-10 loss to Miami, the Browns quarterback had large reddish welts on his sides and back, semi-permanent tattoos left by Dolphins defenders.
On Monday, Weeden absorbed a few more blows.
Sports talk radio airwaves were filled with cries for Weeden's head as Cleveland fans vented after watching him throw three interceptions as the Browns lost their ninth straight opener and for the 14th time in 15 years. Although he was sacked six times, hit 16 by official count, had a few passes dropped and one TD called back by a holding penalty, Weeden was targeted again.
However, there was plenty of blame to be passed around.
"It's everybody," wide receiver Davone Bess said. "Whether it's protection or us catching the ball. It's everybody, collectively, and I think the faster we come to grips with that and understand that it's not an individual guy, we'll be in good shape."
Weeden was not in Cleveland's locker room, but Browns coach Rob Chudzinski reported that his second-year quarterback was OK physically.
"He's fine," Chudzinski said. "He might have a few bruises."
Weeden's rough outing called to mind his NFL debut last year, when he threw four interceptions in a loss to Philadelphia. The shaky opener was the first of several inconsistent performances in 2012 for Weeden, leading to months of speculation about whether the soon-to-be-30-year-old can be Cleveland's franchise quarterback. That's an ongoing debate, and his day with the Dolphins did nothing to quiet his critics.
Chudzinski, though, said he isn't about to bench Weeden. Cleveland's No. 3 wasn't the No. 1 problem against Miami.
"The protection issues were there," he said. "That's something that you have to contend with. I thought Brandon had some ups and downs. There were some throws and some reads that he would like to have back. But the one thing you saw yesterday was what I talked about: Resiliency. You saw his resiliency and his toughness. If anybody had questions about that prior to this game, you look at the game, and he's pretty tough and kept bouncing back and coming back."
Weeden finished 26 of 53 for 289 yards and one touchdown. The numbers are respectable, but they don't tell the whole story as Weeden, who was missing top receiver Josh Gordon because of a suspension, misfired on some easy throws and spent much of the afternoon with one or more of Miami's defensive linemen in his face.
Weeden's tough day ended with him scrambling from trouble on fourth down and desperately flinging a side-arm pass that fell incomplete. On several occasions, Weeden moved his arm in a small circle to try to loosen his shoulder.
It wasn't all Weeden's fault. But just as it is for every other NFL quarterback, the glory and the blame come in disproportionate doses.
Many Browns fans view Weeden as a temporary fix, someone to hold the job down until the team finds a younger, more mobile quarterback who can elevate his teammates by talent and will.
Chudzinski believes Weeden can do that for the Browns — in time.
"I think that happens naturally as a guy gets better and better and more experienced. He's the focal point typically in the offense and that happens," he said. "I think he has improved and he has shown that to this point. Ultimately it has to happen out on the field and in the performance. We all have to be good around the quarterback.
"That's the key to success."
In itemizing Cleveland's many issues in the disappointing opener, Chudzinski listed pass protection, penalties, mental mistakes, communication errors, third-down efficiency, and an inability to make plays at key moments.
The Browns were a ghastly 1 of 14 on third-down conversions, a startling statistic made worse by the fact that the Dolphins went 8 of 16 to keep their drives alive.
"A of those were self-inflicted negatives," said Bess, who had five catches for 47 yards.