FOXBORO, Mass. - The Browns' offense that took to the field Sunday didn't resemble the unit that was on the field when the season opened.
Center Jeff Faine and left guard Shaun O'Hara, both of whom sat out the previous game, weren't able to suit up because of ankle injuries. Melvin Fowler started at center, and rookie Enoch DeMar received his first career start at left guard.
Just four of the projected starters at assigned positions when the season began were able to start - right tackle Ryan Tucker, tight end Steve Heiden, receiver Kevin Johnson and receiver Quincy Morgan. Right guard Paul Zukauskas was moved into a starting role when O'Hara moved from right guard to left guard to replace Fowler, who started the first three games of the season at guard.
Coach Butch Davis spoke highly of the way the young linemen performed. He singled out DeMar.
"A lot of people wondered if they should be in the NFL or playing with this team," Browns coach Butch Davis said of the young players on the line. "But I have to tell you, those guys sucked their guts up. They did a reasonably good job and at times a really good job of running the football."
Chad Beasley, who started at left guard the previous Sunday, suffered a toe injury in practice last Wednesday. When he missed a Thursday practice in which the Browns worked on picking up blitzes, the decision was made to start DeMar.
DeMar had to go against Richard Seymour, who made the Pro Bowl last season.
"I wouldn't say I played a great game," DeMar said when
informed that Davis complimented him on his performance. "I just didn't want to
let the older guys down. They showed me the path. When one of them goes down, I
have to go in. If I let them down, I let the team down."
HOLCOMB HOBBLING: There's a chance that Kelly Holcomb won't be 100 percent healthy at any point this season. The bye week will help, but Holcomb needs plenty of rest to help the ligaments heal in his injured right ankle.
"There's a chance (it won't get to 100 percent)," Holcomb
said. "But it's over now, and I feel pretty good. I was anxious to see how it
was going to hold up. Last week I played a quarter and five minutes, and today I
played two quarters and five minutes. It feels pretty good right now."
LATE SCRATCH: The decision to sit Green wasn't made until after he went through pre-game warmups. Jackson, making his first start since Dec. 16 of 2001, rushed for 71 yards on 15 carries. He stressed the importance of being prepared to step in, which wasn't the case last season.
"I don't want to get caught up in the situation where I was
last year when I was mad and frustrated," Jackson said. "When your number is
called, you can't get the job done because you're worried about this and that."
FIRED UP AT FOWLER: Holcomb was visibly angry after Fowler was early on a shotgun snap in the fourth quarter. The ball bounced beyond Holcomb, who was able to retrieve it and throw it out of bounds.
"It was the heat of battle, and Kelly is an emotional guy,"
Fowler said. "He just came over and apologized. It was miscommunication on both
of our parts."
NOT DONE YET! Earl Little isn't giving up on the season despite the 3-5 record entering the bye week.
"You can't throw this season away," free safety Earl Little said of the 3-5 record. "Someone might make the playoffs in our division with a 7-9 record."
Baltimore leads the AFC North with a 4-3 record. Cincinnati is
3-4, and Pittsburgh trails with a 2-5 mark.
EXTRA POINTS: Tim Couch sprained a ligament in his right thumb in the first quarter. He left the field in the second quarter for X-rays that were negative. Cornerback Lewis Sanders strained a groin but was able to return.
Ben Taylor led the defense with 18 unofficial tackles, including 16 solo stops.
Inactive for the Browns were Faine, O'Hara, quarterback Nate Hybl, defensive back Leigh Bodden, Green, Stokes, defensive lineman Felipe Claybrooks and defensive lineman Antonio Garay.
Inactive for the Patriots were quarterback Rohan Davey, running back Michael Cloud, safety Je'Rod Cherry, linebacker Ted Johnson, offensive guard Wilbert Brown, receiver David Patten, nose tackle Ted Washington and defensive tackle Rick Lyle.