July 29, 2014

Medina
Intermittent clouds
68°F

Browns: Learning how to finish

BEREA — Cornerback Joe Haden was still in a lot of pain Monday afternoon with a hip pointer and wasn’t sure if he’ll be able to finish the season.

He’s absolutely certain the defense and team must learn to finish games.

Chicago wide receiver Brandon Marshall, right, makes a catch against Cleveland cornerback Joe Haden. After getting injured Sunday, Haden isn’t sure if he will be able to play in either of the next two games. (AP PHOTO)

“We have to do better,” he said Monday. “A lot of the (negative attention) has been on our offense and how our offense has been doing, but at the same time, the defense, we’ve got to step up, too.

“We’re not playing at our best level, I’m not playing at my best level. I’ve got to do better, I can do better and we will do better.”

The Browns have dropped five straight games following a 38-31 home loss Sunday to Chicago. They’ve lost eight of nine to fall to 4-10 and become the second franchise (Tampa Bay) to lose at least 10 games in 10 of 11 seasons.

“All it takes is, it’s a just a matter of a few more plays and we’ll get the results that we want,” said first-year coach Rob Chudzinski, whose wife delivered a baby boy Monday morning. “We’re not just going to hope we get better, we are going to make good things happen. We’re going to be proactive. I’ve challenged our players and coaches to be part of the solution.”

X-rays on Haden’s left hip were negative and the diagnosis remained a deep bruise after 320-pound Bears left tackle Jermon Bushrod inadvertently kneed Haden. Chudzinski and Haden said the injury is “day-to-day.” He’ll get treatment again today and his status will be updated Wednesday.

“I have no idea,” Haden said when asked if he’ll play Sunday vs. the Jets. “They got me coming in in the morning every day for treatment, so it’s day-by-day.”

Haden said he was trying to set the edge on a Michael Bush run to the left side.

“I went to go cut (Bushrod) with my shoulder pad, and I overshot it,” Haden said. “So I just left my whole side exposed, and his knee drove right into my side.

“It was just hurting, I just felt pain. I knew it was nothing bad bad, I knew I was going to be OK. But I just knew that very moment I couldn’t get up. It’s ball. It happens. I’m trying to go chop a lineman that’s five times my size.”

Haden’s absence for the final 19 minutes was a huge blow to a defense that had blown leads in the final minute the previous two weeks. The Browns were no match for the high-powered Bears offense, surrendering 21 points in 8:42 of the fourth quarter.

“The thing that makes it, for me, the hardest is just — we’re in it,” outside linebacker Paul Kruger said. “We’re in every game, we’re right there and I feel like a lot of times we’re actually controlling the game most of the time, and just letting it slip away like that is tough. I wish I had an answer for it.”

Haden’s fourth-quarter absence doesn’t absolve him of blame for the defense’s recent problems. He seemed a lock to make his first Pro Bowl after two interceptions and a touchdown against Cincinnati, but has given up a touchdown in each of the four games since.

Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown beat him for a 41-yard score, Jacksonville’s Cecil Shorts burned him for the 20-yard winner, New England’s Julian Edelman caught a 2-yarder and Chicago’s Brandon Marshall had a 5-yarder. Each No. 1 wideout has caught six passes vs. the Browns.

“I’m playing well. It’s just that the receivers are making plays also,” Haden said. “Brandon Marshall is a really good player. With those 50-50 balls, usually I’m making the play. He made the play on a couple of them. So it’s just I’ve got to tighten up on my things and on the touchdown, instead of trying to go for the interception, I’ve got to try to reach out with one hand and try to knock it down.”

Haden thought he had the pick, but Jay Cutler managed to fit the ball into Marshall.

“The last thing in my head was him scoring,” Haden said. “I was thinking either I’m gonna pick this off or it’s gonna be incomplete and I dove for it with both hands and I don’t know how he caught it. Just kinda shocked.”

The late breakdowns by the defense, which is ranked eighth in yardage, have been even more stunning. It’s given up six touchdowns and 47 points in the fourth quarter of the last three games to prolong the skid.

The Browns have also been terrible at the end of the first half, allowing scores in the final two minutes in seven of the last eight games for a total of 43 points on nine scoring drives.

“It’s just we’ve got to step up and start making plays and when we get those leads don’t try to do too much,” Haden said. “Just do your job, do what got you to that position.”

Haden walked into the locker room Sunday and tested the hip, but said he was so limited he would’ve hurt the team if he tried to play. He hopes to play in the final two games and avoid injured reserve.

“If I can play, I’m going to play. If I can’t, I won’t,” he said. “I would love to definitely finish out the season and play. But I’m not going to go out there if I’m not ready or if I’m going to hurt the team in anyway.”

The Browns were already without nickelback Chris Owens, who went on injured reserve with a sprained knee following the Jacksonville game Dec. 1. If Haden isn’t able to play, rookie third-round pick Leon McFadden gets pushed into the starting lineup and first-year player Julian Posey becomes the third corner.

McFadden has been penalized for a pair of critical pass interferences in the last two games, and Posey was part of the double coverage when Alshon Jeffery made a twisting grab Sunday to tie the game in the fourth quarter.

“I like to live by that phrase, good things come to those who prepare,” Posey said. “So I always want to make sure I’m a man who is prepared.

“Oh, man, you can’t replace Joe Haden. You see the competitiveness and then the great ability to be able to cover anybody regardless of his stature or the ability of the opponent.

“I’m my own man, I have my own skills and I have my own talents and abilities and I play different, my style’s different. It’s kind of like Kung fu. He’s Praying Mantis, I may be Crouching Tiger. So it’s kind of like that.”

Contact Scott Petrak at (440) 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @scottpetrak.