CLEVELAND— The Browns biggest play maker in the loss to the Raiders was somewhat of a surprise—that is to everyone except his quarterback.
Tight end Gary Barnidge set career highs in receptions (six) and receiving yards (105), while adding a 28-yard touchdown with the best game of his NFL career.
“Yeah, Gary is Gary,” Josh McCown said. “He’s solid. He makes plays when the ball is thrown his way. We understand that and we need to continue to get him more involved and utilize him even more. We knew we’d have an opportunity with tight ends. We saw what (Bengals TE Tyler) Eifert had done and (Ravens TE Crockett) Gillmore had done against him in Baltimore. We really felt like we could utilize Gary in a big way this game so it was good to get him going.”
It marked Barnidge’s first 100-yard game and fourth career touchdown. Barnidge previous career bests were four receptions for 77 yards, against the Saints and Bills, respectively. It was Barnidge’s first touchdown since hauling in a 40-yard score at New England on Dec. 8, 2013.
Barnidge’s touchdown came with 3:32 to play in the third quarter and at the time cut the deficit to 20-10. Barnidge down played his personal accomplishments in the loss.
“I was following the game plan,” he said. “I think all the other guys that were running their routes were getting me open.”
Barnidge said the Browns slow start really dug a hole that in the end they were unable to get out of.
“Everybody just didn’t come to play right away,” he said. “That’s the toughest part because we did it throughout the whole week. Then once we started to get it going, it was too late.”
Despite the slow start, the Browns still had a chance to tie the game at the end.
“It’s tough,” Barnidge said. “We know a lot of games are going to come down to the last drive and it is just tough not getting it.”
Barnidge is tied with Travis Benjamin for 10 receptions on the season.
McCown Factor: After a slow start, QB Josh McCown finished with 341 yards on 28-of-49 with two touchdowns and an interception. It was the 10th time in his career that he threw for 300 or more yards. His passing totals were the most by a Browns quarterback since Jason Campbell threw for 391 yards against the Patriots on Dec. 8, 2013.
“We started slow and that wasn’t good,” McCown said. “Especially the way that they started, we needed to answer and respond, and offensively, we didn’t do that. That’s what we’ve got to do better. It was not typical of us. Every time we’ve been out, in the beginning, we’ve started fast. So that was not typical of us, We’ve got to be better there.”
At halftime, McCown had just 104 yards passing. Pettine was asked if McCown wasn’t sharp early in the game.
“I don’t know if I would say rusty,” Pettine said. “I thought he had a good week. He made some big throws in the game and missed some. I was proud of not just him but how we hung in there offensively and got us back to within a score and a chance to tie it at the end. Josh will be the first to tell you there are some throws he made and some he’ll want to have back.”
Barnidge was impressed with McCown’s play.
“He showed his leadership in the huddle and we knew that he could control the two-minute offense,” he said. “He did a great job.
“Everybody started to gel together and that was a huge aspect,” he said. “The leadership that Josh showed in the huddle was great.”
Pettine was asked if he thought of putting QB Johnny Manziel in the game in the first half.
“No, none,” he said. “As I said during the week, you can’t put a player in a situation where he feels like he’s playing with a short leash; then, it just becomes self-fulfilling. We want our quarterback to play well, we have to play better around him.”
McCown was asked if he heard the chants for Manziel.
“There were “Johnny” chants? I understand the situation that I’m in and this part of it,” he said. “He’s an exciting young player that I know people want to see play. I understand that part, but for me, I have to just focus on where we are and what we’re doing. We had our own problems and our own issues just trying to move the ball and so that’s really where my focus is. Just staying present in those situations, you have to block that stuff out. You can’t allow that to become a part of it because then it snowballs. Now, you’re fighting both the crowd and the defense. You have to take that out of it. I’ve been around long enough to have gone through those things, and I feel pretty good about my ability to block that out.”
McCown’s lone turnover was the Browns last chance to tie the game as DB Charles Woodson stepped in front of WR Travis Benjamin with 38 seconds to play at the Raider’s 12.
“(Benjamin) was open early,” Pettine said. “The play, based on the coverage, we thought we could get a chunk to Gary (Barnidge) over the ball. I think Josh saw, he knew there would be a potential window in Cover 2. Credit Woodson, that was a heck of play, but you have to throw that ball a little bit earlier or get it in the middle of the field to Gary.”
McCown said he didn’t throw the ball hard enough on the play.
“No, it was something I was trying to hold Charles (Woodson) with my eyes and I got him where I wanted to,” he said. “I just didn’t put enough on the ball. I didn’t put enough on the ball, and we would’ve had a shot. It’s one of those where I’d like to put a little more air on it and go over the top. You have to bet on the safety taking a bad angle and I think we would’ve had it. I just didn’t put enough air on it. I didn’t throw it the way I wanted to throw.”
Macon is 33-of-57 for 390 yards (57.9 pct.) with two touchdowns and one interception and a 83.2 rating.
Game Changer: In the midst of the Browns attempted comeback, they had two major blunders that cost them. LB Barkevious Mingo roughed punter after a defensive stop and the Raiders scored their first touchdown to take a 10-0 lead. Later, PR Travis Benjamin muffed a punt after the Browns stopped the Raiders trailing 27-20 and would’ve had the ball near midfield with 4:01 to play. Pettine was asked if the roughing the kicker swung momentum to the Raiders.
“That is right up there,” he said. “We had good momentum with a stop and then had to go right back out, and they drove the length of the field. The muffed punt was another one, as well. It took some momentum away.”
Benjamin was disappointed in himself.
“It was one of those things I feel like I let my team down, and that is one thing I don’t want to do,” he said. “We have to take advantage of every opportunity. Every time we get the ball, we have to punch it in. The good enough thing was that the defense got us the ball back, and we had another opportunity to score.”
Benjamin caught four passes for 45 yards, including his fourth touchdown reception of the season.
Lone Turnover: The Browns lone takeaway was a fumble forced by LB Christian Kirksey that was recovered by DL John Hughes.
Slow Day: The Browns had just 39 yards rushing on the day. RB Isaiah Crowell had 36 yards on 10 carries, while RB Duke Johnson had just three yards on four carries. Crowell’s biggest run from scrimmage was 17 yards from the 18 came when he ran to the one, but couldn’t get into the end zone. The Browns were forced to settle for a field goal after Crowell rushed twice from the one but was stopped and McCown threw incomplete. The Browns were set to go for it on fourth-and-on, but OL Joel Bitonio was flagged for a false start and K Travis Coons kicked the 24-yard field goal to make it 10-3 at the time.
Big Break: KR Shaun Draughn fumbled at the Browns 18 with just 18 seconds to play on the kick return, but after review was ruled down. The Browns were already trailing 17-3.
Haden, Gipson Hurt: DB Joe Haden injured his ribs on a tackle on RB Latavius Murray after a 54-yard run. DB Tashaun Gipson had a groin injury. LB Craig Robertson suffered an ankle injury and did not return. Haden and Gipson returned to the game.
“Three injuries of note,” Pettine said. “Tashaun Gipson, groin, we will get that evaluated in the morning, as well as Joe’s (Haden) ribs; [Haden’s] initial X-rays were negative. Evaluate him, as well. (LB) Craig Robertson, ankle injury, we are not sure of the severity of that, as well. We will certainly have more information Wednesday on those.”
McCown disclosed that he had X-rays, but would not disclose what was possibly injured, but did say he was ‘fine’.
Sackless: The Browns were unable to sack QB Derek Carr. LB Karlos Dansby led the Browns with 9 tackles, followed by DB Tashaun Gipson with 6.
Gilbert Active: DB Justin Gilbert was active but was not seen on defense. He played on special teams but was not credited with any tackles. When Haden and Gipson were out, DB Johnson Bademosi and DB Jordan Poyer were used.
The Captains: C Alex Mack, DB Tashaun Gipson, QB Josh McCown and LB Karlos Dansby were captains.
Legends: The Browns honored Bob Golic and Don Colo at halftime by inducting them into the Cleveland Browns Legends. Golic played 1982-88, while Colo played from 1953-58
Bryant, Bowe Out:DL Desmond Bryant sat out with a shoulder injury after not practicing all week. DL John Hughes started in his place. Meanwhile, WR Dwayne Bowe was a healthy scratch. Other inactive for the Browns were: QB Austin Davis, RB Robert Turbin (ankle), DB K’Waun Williams (concussion), LB Scott Solomon (ankle) and TE E.J. Bibbs.
Inactive for the Raiders were: CB Dexter McDonald, FB/RB Jamize Olawale, OL Jon Feliciano, OL Matt McCants, NT Justin Ellis, WR Rod Streater and DE Benson Mayowa.