April 20, 2014

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Browns players find focus amid the adversity

CLEVELAND — The Browns hierarchy insists a plan’s in place to change the fortunes of the franchise.
It’s safe to say last week didn’t follow the script.
Everyone connected with the Browns was stunned by the totality of the dismal effort in the 34-7 loss to the Steelers. If the performance wasn’t disconcerting enough, Charlie Frye was traded Tuesday to Seattle for a sixth-round draft pick.
That left Derek Anderson starting at quarterback, Brady Quinn waiting in the wings and the rest of the team picking up the pieces.
“It was kind of a shock to all of us,” tackle Kevin Shaffer said. “We all expected great things, and we still do.”
“Usually when teams, athletes, people are faced with the highest amount of adversity is when you really turn it around,” guard and former Bengal Eric Steinbach said. “It should be exciting this week.”
The players said they sent their best wishes to Frye, then quickly turned the page with quality practices.
“Our players have done a good job of trying to put the focus on the game,” coach Romeo Crennel said.
As scary as the opener was, today’s matchup with Cincinnati (1-0) has the potential for even more gore. The Bengals have won five straight in the series and feature an imposing combination of high-powered offense and playmaking defense.
“We’re probably going to have to play the best games of our lives,” Crennel said. “But as I told the guys, we have good ability and if we play good, solid, sound football, we’re going to be in the game and we’ll have a chance to win.”
Anderson will be in the middle of the action. He’s 0-3 as a starter, all coming last year after Frye injured a wrist. He entered in the second quarter last week and went 13-for-28 for 184 yards, a touchdown and a 65.2 rating. He had a fumble, threw an interception and had two more dropped.
“I expect him to play the way he played against Kansas City when we put him in the game last year,” Crennel said. “He did win that game for us.”
Anderson’s heroics in the second half and overtime inspired the imagination of some in the front office and on the coaching staff. His big arm gives him a high ceiling, which made Frye expendable.
“I know my job and I know I’ve got to move the team,” Anderson said. “I’ve got to have touchdowns and I’ve got to control turnovers.”
This is the same Anderson who threw eight interceptions in four games last year. So it isn’t a stretch to think Crennel could turn to Quinn quickly, perhaps as early as today.
“Brady’s very confident in his ability and very confident in himself,” Crennel said. “That’s what you find with young players. They are all confident and they think that they are world-beaters.
“He can and will be able to beat the world, but until you get into the game and see the different blitzes that are coming at you then you really don’t know. I think in time he is going to be a really good quarterback for the Browns.”
The focus has been on the quarterbacks since training camp began in July, but the Browns have issues across the board. They had penalties and dropped passes on offense, and the defense gave up big plays, four touchdown passes and a long, game-ending touchdown drive to start the third quarter.
If the same occurs today, the Browns will be 0-2, with both losses coming at home to division rivals. Crennel will fall to 1-13 inside the AFC North and the pressure will continue to build.
“We actually believe we’re a better team,” receiver Braylon Edwards said. “Last year and the year before that, we were saying it for ourselves to sound good, to actually buy into it.
“This year we know it, we understand it, we believe it.”
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7135 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.

TODAY’S GAME 

CLEVELAND BROWNS VS. CINCINNATI BENGALS
WHERE:
Cleveland Browns Stadium
TIME: 1 p.m.
RECORDS: Browns 0-1; Bengals 1-0
LAST WEEK: Browns lost 34-7 to Steelers; Bengals beat Ravens 27-20 on Monday night
SERIES: Bengals lead 34-33
SERIES AT CLEVELAND: Browns lead 20-13
LAST MEETING: Bengals won 30-0 on Nov. 26 in Cleveland
COACHES: Romeo Crennel is 10-23 with Browns and overall; Marvin Lewis is 36-30 with Bengals and overall
TV/RADIO: Channel 19, with broadcasters Bill Macatee and Steve Beuerlein; WMMS 100.7-FM
NFL RANKINGS (OUT OF 32 TEAMS): Browns — offense 27th
(T-31st rushing, 20th passing), defense 23rd (31st rushing, 7th passing); Bengals — offense 25th (30th rushing, 18th passing), defense 19th (17th rushing, T-23rd passing)
BROWNS UPDATE: QB Derek Anderson will start following the trade of Charlie Frye. Anderson has played in six games and is 0-3 as a starter.
Rookie Brady Quinn moves into the backup role.
The Browns committed five turnovers in the opener, including fumbles by Anderson, WR Braylon Edwards and RB Jamal Lewis.
Lewis was held to 35 yards on 11 carries vs. the Steelers.
LG Eric Steinbach will play his former team for the first time. He spent his first four years with the Bengals.
The Browns allowed the Steelers to rush for 206 yards, 149 in the second half. They also allowed four touchdown passes.
LB Antwan Peek had a half-sack, a fumble recovery, a pass breakup and two tackles.
The Browns were beat twice by a combined score of 64-17 last year in the Battle of Ohio.
BENGALS UPDATE: Cincinnati has won a record five straight in the series.
WR Chad Johnson needs 82 yards to supplant Isaac Curtis as the team’s all-time receiving leader. In six-plus years Johnson has 7,020 yards. Curtis had 7,101 in 12 years. Johnson has averaged 75.5 yards in 93 games.
In his last five games vs. the Browns, RB Rudi Johnson has rushed for 706 yards and seven TDs on 133 carries, a 5.3-yard average.
QB Carson Palmer was 20-for-32 for 194 yards, two TDs and a 100.3 rating last week. He threw for 627 yards and five TDs in two games vs. Cleveland in 2006.
WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh had nine catches for 50 yards and a TD vs. Baltimore.
DE Robert Geathers and former Browns DT Mike Myers had interceptions.
BROWNS INJURY REPORT: Out: Willie McGinest (back); Doubtful: S Gary Baxter (knees); Questionable: LB Antwan Peek (foot), CB Leigh Bodden (groin), P Dave Zastudil (back); Probable: CB Daven Holly (concussion)
BENGALS INJURY REPORT: Out: LB Rashad Jeanty (shin), S Ethan Kilmer (knee), DE Frostee Rucker (hamstring); Doubtful: C Eric Ghiaciuc; Questionable: S Chinedum Ndukwe (hamstring); Probable: K Shayne Graham (hip), WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh (knee), CB Deltha O’Neal (knee), OT Willie Anderson (foot), WR Antonio Chatman (hamstring), DB Dexter Jackson (thigh)
THE PICK: Browns play better — they can’t play much worse — but Bengals have too much firepower. Bengals 27-17.

Scott Petrak