August 23, 2014

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Road block stops Browns cold in 26-24 loss to Raiders

OAKLAND, Calif. — Thud.
It’s the sound of a winning
field-goal attempt hitting a defensive player square in the hand. It’s also the sound of an egg being laid by an entire team.
The Browns were a 40-yard field goal away from leaving the Black Hole with a two-game winning streak, a 2-1 record and a charter plane full of momentum for next week’s home game with the Baltimore Ravens.
Instead, Phil Dawson’s attempt at a winning field goal with three seconds left was sent bouncing back at him on the infield dirt of McAfee Coliseum. Raiders 26, Browns 24.
But the Browns (1-2) lost the game as much with their performance in the first half. They were penalized seven times, Derek Anderson was intercepted twice with an 18.5 rating and the defense allowed 16 points and a slew of big plays.
“Everyone wasn’t ready. I can’t explain it,” guard Eric Steinbach said. “We weren’t firing out right away and that’s going to cost you. We just kept shooting ourselves in the foot. It’s on everybody.”
If Dawson’s kick had split the uprights, the slow start, missed opportunities and defensive lapses would’ve been forgotten. Instead, they’re magnified.
The Browns rallied from a 16-0 hole to take a 17-16 lead in the third quarter, then fell behind 26-17.
Anderson scored on a 1-yard bootleg with 3:33 left and the Browns forced a punt at 1:14.
With no timeouts, Anderson hit Kellen Winslow over the middle for 33 yards and 22 yards, then found Joe Jurevicius on the sideline for 13 yards with three seconds left.
Dawson made the kick, but rookie Raiders coach Lane Kiffin had called a timeout before the snap. The Broncos used the same tactic to beat the Raiders the week before.
“I was standing with Leigh Bodden and Kellen Winslow, praying on it, holding hands,” receiver Braylon Edwards said. “I saw it go through and I was a little excited. The first one, it was a fake-me-out.”
On the real try, the Raiders overloaded the left side of the Cleveland line and caved it in. Tommy Kelly was credited with the block.
“It looked like about three people could’ve blocked it,” said Kiffin, who got his first win and snapped the Raiders’ 11-game losing streak.
Dawson has had four field goals blocked in his career, but never one at the end of a game.
“Everything felt good,” Dawson said. “I’ll be the first one in there (today) trying to figure out what happened. Give them credit, they were coming hard all day.”
Coach Romeo Crennel was steaming after the game, and the block was the icing on the cake.
“When you relax, you get ’em blocked,” he said. “I’ve seen guys be able to block and protect ’em many times before and not get ’em blocked. The way we played, it kinda felt like we relaxed.”
That was a fitting end, because that’s how the Browns started.
The first drive blew up after former Brown Gerard Warren stripped Anderson and the ball rolled backward for a 24-yard loss. The Browns followed with a delay of game, a false start and a timeout.
The offense didn’t get in gear the rest of the half. Anderson threw two interceptions to linebackers over the middle, which set up a pair of Oakland field goals.
“Maybe we got a little antsy, thinking 51 points would repeat itself,” said Edwards, who had four catches, including two acrobatic ones, for 83 yards and a touchdown. “Maybe we came out thinking we’re the better team on paper and it would come to us. I think we left a lot of plays out there, a lot of points.”
Joshua Cribbs provided the same spark he did last year, when the Browns rallied from a 21-3 deficit to win. After Oakland took a 16-0 lead Sunday with 2:05 left in the first half, Cribbs returned a kickoff 99 yards. When the Browns recovered a fumble at the Raiders 29-yard line on the next Oakland snap, the Browns had a chance to seize all the momentum. But Anderson missed a wide-open Steve Heiden in the end zone and they had to settle for a field goal.
Anderson was 6-for-17 for 75 yards in the first half, as he suffered from bouts of inaccuracy. He finished 18-for-37 for 248 yards, two interceptions and a 57.0 rating — a far cry from the five-touchdown, 328-yard performance the week before.
“I have to be better for us to win,” he said.
Crennel stressed all week the importance of Anderson not trying to do too much.
“It’s unfortunate,” he said. “You say take what the defense gives you, and when you press, sometimes turnovers result.”
Anderson doesn’t deserve all the blame. Edwards and Tim Carter had drops on third down, and Jamal Lewis was held to 56 yards rushing on 15 carries.
Then there’s the defense. The Raiders ran the ball for 186 yards, Josh McCown and Daunte Culpepper combined to throw for 226 and a touchdown and the Raiders hit a big play whenever they needed one, thanks to blown coverages and missed tackles.
“We couldn’t stop them,” Crennel said. “They threw it, they ran it.”
In the end, the mistakes cost the Browns a win. It would’ve been their first two-game win streak since 2003, and the drought will hit at least 63 games.
“We’re trying to take the next step as a team,” said Dawson, who stood near midfield with his hands on his helmet after the block. “It was a failure to capitalize on the opportunity that was right here before us, and that made it especially difficult.”
“We can’t take it in stride,” Edwards said. “I’d be lying if I told you we could.”
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7135 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.