CLEVELAND—After scoring touchdowns on three-straight first half possessions and jumping out to a 20-7 lead, the Browns watched the Arizona Cardinals score 27 unanswered points to win 34-20 going away in front of 67,431 fans at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Browns drop to 2-6 and have now lost three in a row and five of their last six. Meanwhile, the Cardinals improve to 6-2.
The Browns took a 20-7 lead with 4:56 to play in the first half when Josh McCown hit Brian Hartline for his second touchdown of the game.That was the last point the Browns would score as they were shut out in the second half.
However, the Cardinals were able to answer with a 37-yard field goal by Chandler Catanzaro scored on the final play of first half to make the halftime score 20-10.
The Browns had the ball to start the second half, but started three-and-out.
The Cardinals took over from there as they scored back-to-back touchdowns to open the second half and took a 24-20 lead with 7:35 in the third quarter.
“Frustrating day," Pettine said. "I thought we did some good things in the first half, came away with the lead. Hard to explain all that went wrong in the second half. We did some good things defensively with taking the ball away, but they were just put out there too often offensively. Just really couldn’t get things going.
"As I just talked to the guys afterward, we’re not going to spend a lot of time feeling sorry for ourselves," he said. "We have a quick turnaround, go on the road to play an undefeated team in the division. We’re focused on a quick turnaround, get in tomorrow, put this game behind us and then later in the day, come back and be full speed ahead on our Bengals prep.”
The Browns had their chances after Tashaun Gipson intercepted a pass from Carson Palmer, the Browns were unable to do anything with the ball. On Arizona’s next possession, Armonty Bryant stripped Chris Johnson of the ball and Johnson Bademosi recovered at the Cardinals’ 28.
The Browns took the ball away from the Cardinals four times, but were only able to score seven points off of the turnovers.
After a six-yard run by McCown to the 22, Joe Thomas had a false start. On the next play, Rashad Johnson intercepted McCown in the end zone intended for Taylor Gabriel. Instead of cutting the deficit from four points to at least one with a field goal, the Browns were still down 24-20.
From there, Palmer and the Cardinals offense went 80 yards in 12 plays to effectively put the game away with Palmer hitting Larry Fitzgerald from six yards out to extend the Cardinals lead to 31-20. Palmer threw for 374 yards with four touchdowns and just one interception and a 117.7 rating.
The Browns were unable to move the ball on the ground, finishing with just 39 yards rushing. McCown was the leading rusher with just 18 yards on five attempts. Pettine said that was a big reason in the second half collapse offensively.
“I think our lack of ability to run the football caught up to us where we just got to the point where we were too predictable throwing it," Pettine said. "I think they sensed we were in a throw-it-only mode. They were winning up front and could afford to commit more guys to coverage. I thought that got us behind the sticks early in the second half. Giving up the deep ball was difficult. Joe (Haden) was in position and it was a great throw and the guy made a play.”
The Browns are at the halfway mark and will play the unbeaten Bengals in Cincinnati in just four days on Thursday night.
“Where are we? We’re at the halfway point," Pettine said. "We’re 2-6. That’s what we are. We own that. You can look back and there’s a lot of what-ifs, but when the smoke clears from the first half, that’s what we are. We’ve done somethings to build on, but overall, it hasn’t been good enough.”
Pettine Shoots Down Rumors: The NFL Network said the Browns were reported to be shopping several players at the trade deadline including OL Joe Thomas, OL Alex Mack, LB Paul Kruger and LB Barkevious Mingo.
“This fictitious trading block, to me, you get near the trade deadline and reports start coming out," Pettine said. "To me, I am not even going to go there. It seems to happen every year. We are focused 100 percent on this game this morning, and now, we are moving on. I am aware of what is out there, but I have no comment.”
QB Josh McCown said he wasn’t aware of trade rumors.
“I don’t think it affected anyone,” he said. “I don’t know anything about it.”
Banged Up McCown:As expected, QB Josh McCown started against the Cardinals and was bruised and battered once again. McCown finished 18-of-34 for 211 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He had a rating of 89.2. He was sacked only once but was knocked down seven times. He also was the leading rusher with 18 yards on five carries. He was hit in the helmet when he slid drawing a personal foul from Arizona.
McCown injured his right shoulder and ribs last Sunday in the loss to the Rams and was forced to leave the game. McCown didn’t practice on Wednesday and was limited on Thursday and Friday and Mike Pettine said he would be a game-time decision. Johnny Manziel is active and the No. 2 quarterback behind McCown. Manziel came in the final drive and was 3-of-6 for 12 yards and had one carry for one yard.
Pettine was asked if McCown would play Thursday against the Bengals.
“Yes, I said during the week, if our starter can go, he will be the starter."
McCown said he wouldn’t play if he wasn’t able.
“I wouldn’t go out there if I can’t play.”
Hartline Emerges: WR Brian Hartline caught his first touchdown pass with the Browns on a 10-yard pass from QB Josh McCown for the Browns only conversion of a turnover into points. He scored his second touchdown on a two-yard pass in the second quarter and finished with four receptions for 32 yards on 10 targets. Both of Hartline’s first two catches were for touchdowns. He dropped the fourth ball thrown his way that would’ve been a first down, but couldn’t hang on.
Big Play Gary: TE Gary Barnidge continued his play making with seven catches for 53 yards, including a touchdown on 11 targets.
The Duke: RB Duke Johnson had two receptions for 68 yards in the first half, including a long of 52 yards that set up the Browns at the end of the first quarter. He had one carry for three yards, but no receptions in the second half.
Big Play: After RB Chris Johnson broke into the secondary for a big gain, he was hit by LB Karlos Dansby and fumbled which was picked up by LB Armonty Bryant, who ran 34 yards down the sideline to the Cardinals 9 to set up the Browns first score of the game. DB K’Waun Williams stripped WR Larry Fitzgerald of the ball inside the Browns’ 10 near the end of the first half and recovered the ball to stop a scoring threat.
Trick Play: For the first time this season, the Browns ran the ‘wildcat’ with RB Isaiah Crowell taking the direct snap fro 8 yards and QB Josh McCown was wide to the left. The Browns also used it with RB Robert Turbin with little success.
On the next play, McCown hit RB Duke Johnson for 52 yards to the Cardinals’ 6.
Three’s not a Crowd: The Browns had three defensive starters back in CB Joe Haden, S Tashaun Gipson and LB Craig Robertson. Haden missed the last two games with a concussion and finger injury, while Gipson missed the last three with an ankle injury. Robertson missed four games with an ankle injury. However, Haden had to leave the game along with DB Donte Whitner with concussions.
Gip Pick: DB Tashaun Gipson intercepted QB Carson Palmer in the third third quarter for his second of the season and 14th of his career.
Sack Man: DL Desmond Bryant sacked QB Carson Palmer on third down in the second quarter for a two-yard loss to force a punt. It was the Browns only sack. DB Tramon Williams led the Browns with 9 tackles followed by LB Karlos Dansby with 7.
Say it ain’t so Joe: DB Joe Haden was taken to the locker room in the third quarter for concussion evaluation. DB Donte Whitner was taken off in the third quarter to be evaluated for a concussion. With the next game in just four days, it is unlikely that Haden or Whitner will be cleared in time to play.
Bowe Up: Seldom used WR Dwayne Bowe was active for just the third time this season and first time in three games with Andrew Hawkins sidelined with a concussion. He had one target late in the game and has still to catch a pass this season. Bowe was fifth in the rotation as special teamer and WR Marlon Moore played ahead of Bowe in four wide receiver sets.
Turbin Fumbles: RB Robert Turbin fumbled twice in the game but the most costly was with 7:33 to play and the Browns driving at the Cardinals’ 40 virtually ending the Browns chances. Turbin fumbled early in the game but the Browns recovered. He finished with just 3 yards on three carries.
Other inactives for the Browns are defensive back Jordan Poyer, tight end Rob Housler, tight end E.J. Bibbs, quarterback Austin Davis, defensive back Don Jones and linebacker Jayson DiManche.
No Running Game: While the Browns had just 39 yards rushing, RB Chris Johnson had 109 of the Cardinals 119 yards. Johnson was available when the Browns had several of their backs out in the preseason with injuries, but chose to not bring Johnson in. He did have two fumbles in the game.
My Captain: The Browns captains were TE Jim Dray, LB Karlos Dansby, QB Josh McCown and DL Desmond Bryant. McCown was drafted by the Cardinals in the third round and Dansby and Dray played with the Cardinals before signing with the Browns as free agents.
Bad Decision: Pettine elected to defer as he usually does after winning the toss and the Cardinals proceeded to march 82 yards on the opening drive to take a 7-0 lead before the Browns had the ball. Challenged a catch by Cardinals’ WR Michael Floyd that was not overturned. Barnidge caught a low pass on third down for a first down and it was challenged by Bruce Arians, but not overturned.
Old Friends: Former Browns TE Steve Heiden is assistant special teams coach with the Cardinals, while former Browns DE Frostee Rucker starts on the defensive line.
Orange Out: The Browns wore their orange jerseys with white pants and orange socks. It was the first time the Browns had worn the orange jerseys since the 2004 season when the QB was Jeff Garcia.
Hats off to Heroes:The Browns saluted the Vietnam veterans 40th anniversary with a Hats Off to Our Heroes Honor Row”.