BEREA, Ohio — The Browns hit the season's halfway point in an all-too-familiar funk.
They have lost three straight games, sensational punt returner Travis Benjamin is done for the year with a knee injury, trade rumors about top wide receiver Josh Gordon persist, and Cleveland appears headed toward another disappointing finish.
There's the usual doom. Just not as much gloom.
"I feel like a lot of good things are happening," said linebacker Paul Kruger.
Less than 24 hours after a 23-17 loss at Kansas City — a game the Browns could have won if they had minimized their mistakes in the second half — there were reasons for optimism in Cleveland.
A strong performance by quarterback Jason Campbell, making his first start in 11 months, gave the Browns (3-5) a welcomed boost after starter Brian Hoyer sustained a season-ending knee injury on Oct. 3 and Brandon Weeden played so poorly in consecutive losses. Campbell shook off a sluggish start and finished 22 of 36 for 293 yards and two touchdowns against the Chiefs' tough defense.
Campbell's outing was a much-needed shot in the arm, and coach Rob Chudzinski didn't waste any time in naming the nine-year veteran his starter for this week's home game against Baltimore.
"I thought Jason played very well," said Chudzinski, already on his third quarterback through eight weeks of his first season. "After looking at the tape, he was able to manage the game.
"He was able to escape and get out of some trouble and create some plays. He did a good job from a decision-making standpoint as far as protecting the football and he gave us a lift in that game, so we're real pleased with how he played."
Kruger said Campbell invigorated the Browns on both sides of the ball.
"He did a great job," Kruger said. "He made plays and put us in a position to win."
Campbell's composure allowed the Browns' offense, which didn't get its initial first down until the final four minutes of the second quarter, to turn things around in the second half.
"The guys did a great job stepping up protecting for him," said wide receiver Davone Bess, who dropped three passes and fumbled away a critical punt. "Jason stood in the pocket and made some crucial, crucial throws. He had a really solid game. ... We just fell short."
NOTES: According to STATS, Bess has seven drops, tying him for the most in the league. ... All eight of Gordon's career touchdowns have covered more than 20 yards. ... Benjamin thanked fans on his Twitter account, writing "Thanks everyone I will bounce back stronger than ever!!"