BEREA — Sheldon Brown doesn’t fancy himself as a movie critic, but he sees a strong resemblance between the Browns’ defense and a legendary cinematic squad.
“A lot of times this season, we’ve dominated the game for 30 minutes, but we have 10-15 minutes where we look like the Bad News Bears,” the veteran cornerback said Monday. “It’s definitely emotionally draining, man.
“When (Carolina) was lining up for that kick yesterday, it was like, ‘Oh God, here we go again.’ You know in your heart you should not be in that situation.”
When John Kasay’s 42-yard field goal attempt struck the left upright as time expired, it allowed Cleveland to escape with a 24-23 home victory.
It did nothing, however, to soothe the Browns’ wounds about how poorly their defense played for much of the afternoon.
They allowed the Panthers to drive down the field for a touchdown on their opening drive, failed to hold onto a 21-7 lead, and let Carolina average 5.6 yards per play over the course of the game.
“It’s not a secret: If you practice well, you usually play well, and if you don’t, you usually don’t play well,” Cleveland coach Eric Mangini said. “Defensively, we didn’t have as good a week of practice as we should have, and I think it showed in the game. I feel like we should have played a lot better defensively.”
Mangini was also critical of the Browns’ tackling, which lost them their two previous games when they failed to wrap up the Jets’ Santonio Holmes and the Jaguars’ Maurice Jones-Drew.
Panthers running back Mike Goodson, in particular, bounced off multiple players en route to gaining 136 yards from scrimmage on just 22 touches.
“There is too much block-tackling going on where you think impact is going to get the guy down, but it doesn’t because the guy is too good,” Mangini said curtly. “Bouncing off them is not high percentage. You want a lot of gang tackles and you want to get hats to the ball.
“It’s consistency that we need. I just want some good smart football — and tackling is a huge component there.”
Brown, an eight-year veteran who started Super Bowl XXXIX with the Eagles, didn’t disagree with his coach. He also said the current problems can’t be fixed overnight, which is not a happy thought considering Cleveland has been outscored 89-47 in the fourth quarter this season.
“I think it comes from the maturity of expecting to win and be great and changing the culture,” Brown said. “You just have to push forward and have to keep everyone going for 60 minutes. No sulking, no making excuses whatever happened, just keep going no matter what.”
Still under review
The Browns submitted Carolina wide receiver Brandon LaFell’s last-minute reception to the NFL office for review.
LaFell caught a 28-yard pass with five seconds left and was ruled to have rolled out of bounds before Cleveland’s Sheldon Brown made contact.
If the on-field or replay officials had ruled Brown had touched LaFell before he reached the white stripe, the clock would have continued to run — and the Panthers wouldn’t have been able to attempt a potential game-winning field goal.
“Those go in to the league today, so we’ll get the clarification there,” Mangini said.
Brown reiterated that he did make contact with LaFell’s elbow, but wasn’t certain where it occurred.
“I didn’t have a chance to look at the replay, so I don’t know if he caught the ball and got out of bounds or was inbounds,” he said. “But I definitely got him.”
Mangini absolved Brown from any blame on the play, saying, “Give (Jimmy) Clausen a lot of credit for the throw he made. That was a tremendous throw and catch, it wasn’t a gimme. There were only about six inches between Sheldon’s arm and the ball.”
Browns punter Reggie Hodges, who signed a two-year contract extension last week, made three key plays against Carolina.
He made a touchdown-saving trip of Panthers punt returner Captain Munnerlyn late in the second quarter, then came through twice in the final three minutes of the game.
With 2:47 left, Hodges successfully caught and placed down a high snap by Ryan Pontbriand, allowing Phil Dawson to boot a 41-yard field goal that proved to be the difference.
And with 1:07 remaining, he coffin-cornered a punt to the Carolina 5, pinning the Panthers deep with no timeouts left.
“On that Munnerlyn return, I was just trying to do my job, which is not get hurt,” Hodges said, laughing.
He turned serious, though, when discussing the latter two plays.
“I know some people might get on Ryan for that snap, but I’m telling you, the laces were perfect when I got it. It was just a little bit high, so criticizing him is unfair,” Hodges explained. “And on the punt, they loaded up the left side, so there were only three guys on the right. When I saw that, I knew where I was going to try and place it.”
Mangini said cornerback Eric Wright (knee) has “a chance to come back” in time to play Sunday in Miami, but indicated that rookie Joe Haden would make his second straight start on the left side.
Haden made his team-leading fourth interception against Carolina.
“Joe has done really well,” the coach said. “He’s also gotten better as we go, so he’s making a strong, strong case for continued playing time.”
* Rookie quarterback Colt McCoy (left ankle) will have his status updated Wednesday. Mangini said he was not able to project when he will return, nor would he name a starter against the Dolphins.
* Though Delhomme got the nod against the Panthers, Mangini said, “Seneca (Wallace) will always be part of the discussion. He’s done a great job when he’s been in there.”
* Linebacker and defensive co-captain Scott Fujita (knee) is not expected to return to practice this week.
Quote of the day
“Sometimes the best thing to do, instead of elongating a play, is just throw it away. I had a year with someone who was a known as a
chance-taker — and I lived through that.” — Browns coach Eric Mangini, smirking as he referred to his 2008 season with Brett Favre quarterbacking the Jets.
Contact Brian Dulik at email@example.com.
Browns notes: Defense is bad news at times