July 2, 2016

Partly cloudy

Shurmur is upbeat after loss

Brian Dulik

The Gazette

BEREA — Browns coach Pat Shurmur was remarkably upbeat and composed on Friday afternoon, less than 24 hours after Cleveland suffered a hard-fought 23-16 loss in Baltimore.

Though the Browns are 0-4 on the season and have dropped 10 straight games overall, he refused to be critical of his players or their effort against the Ravens on Thursday Night Football.

“No doom and gloom here. We’re fighting in this next 10-day stretch to go to New York and play the Giants,” Shurmur said.

“This is the group of guys I want to get this thing fixed with, and I told them that in the locker room last night. These are my guys — and I’m glad they are.”

Despite Shurmur’s positivity, Cleveland finds itself in an unenviable position heading into its weekend off. The 1992 San Diego Chargers are the only NFL team to make the playoffs after an 0-4 start, but they didn’t have the youngest roster in the AFC, as the current Browns do.

“We have 12 games left,” Cleveland wide receiver Greg Little said. “To go 12-4 would be a great season.

“In our league, there aren’t any blowouts really. We just have to find whatever it is to make those one or two plays every game that it comes down to.”

Ironically, Little himself failed to get the job done on one of the biggest plays in Baltimore, dropping a potential 34-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Weeden with 4:45 left. The football briefly rested in between his hands, but squirted out as he fell backward to the ground.

The 6-foot-3 receiver made a tremendous athletic leap to get in position for the grab, but didn’t come down with the ball, as has been his problem for two seasons.

“We had some drops, which are not acceptable,” said Shurmur, who singled out Little’s butterfingers earlier in the week. “We have some guys out there playing who are not catching the ball efficiently enough.”

Little, who had two other outright drops, defended his effort on the pass in question.

“That would have been a great play that people would remember, and tell their kids about where they were when it happened,” Little said. “My grading sheet (from the coaches) was pretty good — actually, it was really good — but there are 3-8 plays that you’ve got to make a spectacular effort on each game that I’ve got to make.”

Since Little didn’t, Cleveland is one of just two winless squads in the NFL, along with the New Orleans Saints, and has equaled its second-longest losing streak in 60 seasons in the league.

The Browns will tie their franchise record of 11 losses in a row — set in 1974-1975 under coaches Nick Skorich and Forrest Gregg — if they cannot beat the defending Super Bowl champion Giants on Oct. 7 at MetLife Stadium.

But as cornerback Dimitri Patterson noted, Cleveland’s two best performances came against its two toughest opponents — Baltimore and Philadelphia (a 17-16 loss on Sept. 9) — so a defeat isn’t guaranteed.

“Nobody anywhere gives the Browns a chance, but at the end of the day last night, we were right in it,” the sixth-year pro said.

“It’s us against the world. We don’t play (against) the media, we don’t play bloggers, we don’t play ESPN and NFL.com. Their job is to talk, write, whatever the case may be. That’s y’all job, but our job is to play. Simple as that.”

Complicating matters in Week 5 are the uncertain statuses of Cleveland kick returner Joshua Cribbs (concussion), and safeties T.J. Ward (right thumb), Usama Young (knee) and Tashaun Gipson (knee).

Cribbs was able to fly home with his teammates after taking a scary shot to the head from Ravens linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. Shurmur said the two-time Pro Bowl selection was “doing well today, much better than you might expect.”

Ward’s right hand was placed in a cast before leaving M&T Bank Stadium, prompting Shurmur to say “there is a chance that we may have to do some more evaluation” before determining his availability.

The coach added that safety Ray “Bubba” Ventrone is playing with pins and a steel plate in his broken left thumb, so it was possible Ward could do the same, but offered no details on Young or Gipson.

“We’ll let the dust settle,” Shurmur said. “We’ll be back on the field Monday, so we’ll see where they’re at then.”

Suspension station

Browns linebacker Scott Fujita traveled directly from Baltimore to New York City, where he met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for one hour Friday. A league spokesman declined to disclose what was discussed.

Fujita was initially suspended for three games because of his role in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty program, but had his sentence indefinitely postponed when he appealed it in court.

l Browns cornerback Joe Haden has one contest remaining in his four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s illegal substance policy. He reportedly tested positive for Adderall in the offseason, but Shurmur said he didn’t feel betrayed by Haden’s actions.

“Betrayed? No. Joe could have gone out and sprained his ankle,” the coach said. “We deal with the cards we’re dealt and we go play. That’s our little world here, and that’s how we handle it.”

Special player

Browns kicker Phil Dawson tied an NFL record by making three 50-plus yard field goals against Baltimore. He is the seventh player to pull off the feat and the first since Jacksonville’s Josh Scobee on Oct. 24, 2011.

“Heavy balls, wet environment, but old Phil Dawson just keeps on going,” Shurmur said, smiling. “He’s amazing. He’s amazing.”

Dawson is 8-for-8 on field goals this season, four of which covered at least 50 yards. He connected from 51, 50 and 52 yards in a steady rain against the Ravens.

Quote of the day

“The Cincy game, I just had a bad game, but I feel like I’ve played well the whole time this year.” — Browns cornerback Buster Skrine.

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.