Game Notes: O-Line Injuries Continue

Mike McLain reports from Cleveland Browns Stadium about offensive line injuries and other outcomes of today's game.

CLEVELAND - The Browns offensive line continued its transformation Sunday as another starter went down with an injury.

Left tackle Barry Stokes' left ankle worsened to the point that he couldn't play in the second half. He was replaced by Joaquin Gonzalez, who was playing for the first time ever at the position (he played sparingly in one game at right tackle last year).

The change was one of three made last week. With center Jeff Faine and left guard Shaun O'Hara out the game with knee injuries, Melvin Fowler started at center and Chad Beasley started for O'Hara.

Considering all the inexperience, the line held up well. There were some breakdowns on pass protection in the first half, but that was due primarily to Stokes' problems in keeping up with end Adrian Dingle.

"I know that Tim (Couch) got hit some in the first half, but the pressure wasn't quite as bad in the second half," coach Butch Davis said. "It's extraordinarily difficult when you're playing musical chairs with the offensive line. I'd guess that those guys stepped up and did a good job. We didn't lose the game because of some of that stuff."

Because of time Stokes has missed in practice because of an injury that dates back to week two, Gonzalez has received most of the work with the first unit at left tackle. That made it a bit easier for him.

"That's one of the things that helped me a lot," Gonzalez said. "It wasn't that much of a shock. You get your feet wet on the first couple of plays, and then you just go from there."

Beasley was relieved afterwards.

"We struggled in the first quarter, but it was obvious that we started to come together a little bit in the third quarter," Beasley said. "We started to feel a comfort level as to where everybody was going to be."

PEEVED OVER PENALTIES: Davis is mad about the inordinate number of penalties being called against the Browns. They were penalized seven times for 76 yards.

"We absolutely have to stop the darn penalties," Davis said. "Andre Davis is a couple of steps from taking it to the house (on a kick return), and we have to start the possession at the 10- or 12-yard line. That stuff kills you. We have to either change people or change the schemes to keep those things from happening."

GREEN ON THE BENCH: Running back William Green didn't play after the Browns' first possession of the second half. Green was speared in his right shoulder by the helmet of a San Diego defender. He came back several times after taking a seat on the sideline, but Davis eventually decided to rotate James Jackson and Jamel White.

HOLCOMB HOBBLES HOME: Quarterback Kelly Holcomb walked with a slight limp and was admittedly sore afterwards, but feels he came through the game in good shape and is inching closer to being healthy.

"It felt pretty good to go in there and compete," said Holcomb, who relieved Couch late in the third quarter. "The circumstances being what they were, you have to go in there and do the best you can do. When they told me I was going to go in, I tried to go through my head what they planned. I knew what was going on. I was mentally ready."

GAME NOTES: Defensive end Courtney Brown recorded a sack for the third consecutive game and has a sack in five of the seven games. Brown has six sacks, topping his previous best of 4.5 in 2000 and 2001.

The Browns were just two of 14 on third-down conversions. It was their worst conversion rate of the season.

Nine different receivers caught passes for the Browns. Dennis Northcutt and Kevin Johnson each had five catches.

Browns defensive tackle Gerard Warren injured a hand in the first quarter. X-rays were negative, and he returned in the second period. Stokes was on crutches when he left the stadium but there was no word on the severity of the injury. Right tackle Ryan Tucker missed a couple of plays with a leg injury.

Inactives for the Browns were defensive backs Roosevelt Williams and Leigh Bodden; Faine; O'Hara; defensive lineman Tyrone Rogers; receiver Andre King and defensive lineman Antonio Garay.

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