BEREA—The Browns next three games will go a long way in determining if they are to have any chance of turning their season around, including two games in five days.
At 2-5, the Browns have very little room for error. The Browns task will be a tall one as their next three opponents are a combined 15-5. They host the 5-2 Cardinals Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium before traveling to Cincinnati to take on the currently undefeated Bengals (6-0) next Thursday. Their final game before the bye week is a trip to Pittsburgh to take on the 4-3 Steelers.
The Browns are 1-0 in the division and the Bengals and Steelers games are doubly important because they are in the AFC North.
Despite the Browns poor record, the reason there is still a chance mathematically is that 10 of the 16 teams in the AFC have losing records. With three division leaders undefeated, Patriots (7-0), Broncos (6-0) and Bengals, there is an opportunity for two Wild Card spots. The Colts currently lead the AFC South with a 3-4 record.
“We’ve battled in our games,” Mike Pettine said. “You don’t see our guys quitting and that’s a positive sign, but still we’re looking for the result, the win. That’s what this business is, what I’ve said along this is a bottom line business, you’re either passing or failing.
“It’s a big juncture for us,” he said. “We’re focused on Arizona but know what immediately sits on the other side with playing two games in five days.”
Pettine thinks the Browns can turn their season around.
“You base it on their character, their competitiveness,” he said. “You feel good about it because we know how close we are. You can sit and say, ‘Hey, that’s the losers lament.’ You can point at everything and ‘Hey, we would be this,’ but that we know a lot of it is in our control and that’s the part we have to work on. If we’re going to be on the short end, let it be because another team just flat out-executed us.”
Pettine contends the Browns have played with any of their opponents when they’ve been consistent.
“When we’ve played for stretches to our ability and we haven’t had any self-inflicted issues, we’ve played well,” he said. “That’s what I constantly talk about: raising that level of consistency. To me, that happens with every team, but the teams that play – I said this earlier in the week – better for longer are the ones that are successful. That’s what we’re striving for.”
Tashaun Gipson, who’s expected to be back this week, is surprised the Browns are 2-5.
“Absolutely,” Gipson said. “Not comparing teams to other teams in the past, but when you have an offense, if you eliminate last week’s game – I think that was poor performance on both sides of the ball – we have an offense that’s legitimately able to put up points, able to put points on the board. Everything else rests on the defense so yeah, I’m surprised that with the talent we have that we’re all sitting at 2-5.
“A lot of our games – for example, the Denver game, that’s a game that we really felt like we should have won and we could have won,” he said. “You take a play here, a play there and we win that game, give us that momentum that we need heading into the St. Louis game. I am surprised that we’re 2-5, but like I said, we have a nice stretch, and in these next two weeks, we can turn this thing around, head into the momentum into Pittsburgh game and who knows what can happen from there. I think that we definitely have time. I don’t think that guys in this locker room are holding their head down low.”
McCown Game Time Decision : QB Josh McCown practiced for the second day in a row, but Pettine said he will be a game time decision. McCown threw a little more during the portion of practice open to the media. McCown is officially listed as questionable with an injury to his right shoulder and ribs. McCown did not practice Wednesday and was limited on Thursday and Friday.
“Threw the ball around a little better today,” McCown said after practice Friday. “We’ll see where I’m at Sunday. I feel better.”
Hawk, Poyer, Housler Out: WR Andrew Hawkins (concussion) and DB Jordan Poyer (shoulder) did not practice and were ruled out, as was TE Rob Housler (hamstring) who was with the trainers.
Haden Probable, Gipson, Robertson Questionable:DB Joe Haden (concussion) is probable for Sunday’s game, while Tashaun Gipson (ankle) and LB Craig Robertson (ankle) are all questionable. LB Paul Kruger, who missed practice Thursday with an illness was back and is expected to play.
With Hawkins out, there is a possibility that WR Dwayne Bowe will be active.
“We’re confident if his number is called, that he will be productive,” Pettine said.
Bowe has yet to catch a pass this season and has been inactive in five of the seven games thus far.
No Update on Manziel: Pettine said the Browns have not heard of any decision regarding QB Johnny Manziel, who was reported to have met with people from the NFL’s office.
Long Lost Ring Returned: Browns Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown was recently re-united with his 1964 NFL Championship ring. According to Brown, the ring was stolen in 1966.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Brown said Friday.
Brown, 79, appeared in Manhattan Federal court earlier this week, where a settlement was reached over a lawsuit he filed last year against a memorabilia dealer that had sought to auction the ring.