September 30, 2014

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Notes: Coach Pat Shurmur says team wasn’t flat in awful start vs. Bills

BEREA – Coach Pat Shurmur knows the start was unacceptable: two three-and-outs on offense, two poor punts and coverage and two touchdowns allowed on defense as the Browns fell behind 14-0 in the first 10 minutes. He just doesn’t agree his team came out flat Sunday in a 24-14 loss to Buffalo.

“Was our team ready to play? Absolutely,” he said. “Did we execute efficiently? Absolutely not.

“Our guys were ready to play hard, we just didn’t play well. We’re always looking for ways to get a faster start, that’s for sure.”

The Browns fell to 0-3 and have lost nine straight. But Shurmur isn’t worried about losing becoming acceptable among his young team.

“No, because the locker room is right,” he said. “We’ve got the right kind of guys. I don’t worry about them getting discouraged. I don’t worry about the locker room, because I know what the message is and I watch them day in and day out go to work.

“Should they be upset? Absolutely. Should they be discouraged? Absolutely not. Should they be disappointed? Sure. We all are. And so that’s where we’re at. But you cannot be discouraged. You just keep fighting.”

The next chance is Thursday night in Baltimore against the Ravens (2-1). Shurmur thinks the quick turnaround provides the chance to jump-start the season and doesn’t believe the short work week is detrimental.

“We’re all used to this calendar,” he said. “I’ve been used to it other places I’ve been, and you’ve just got to amp it up and get your plan in. You tend to see teams doing things that are, I wouldn’t say fundamental and basic, but things they’ve been working on all year.

“We’ve had all year to watch Baltimore, so it’s not like we’re surprised by a Thursday night game. We know it’s here.”

IN SEARCH OF

After the second straight shaky showing by the secondary, Shurmur is still searching for the solution.

“We’re looking for the right combination,” he said. “And in the last two weeks, we haven’t found it yet, so we’ll just keep working. But I do think we saw some things yesterday that encouraged us.”

The biggest change was deactivating free safety Eric Hagg, who started the first two games.

“He knew ahead of time it was going to happen and he needs to learn from that,” Shurmur said.

Hagg was replaced with Usama Young and rookie Tashaun Gipson, who alternated series. Young played 48 defensive snaps and Gipson 24.

“I thought Usama Young played a physical game,” Shurmur said. “I thought he did some things that we need to see from him. And I thought Gipson when he was in there played good as well.”

Without No. 1 cornerback Joe Haden, who’s halfway through a four-game suspension, Dimitri Patterson and Buster Skrine have been the starters. Rookie Trevin Wade was the nickelback in Week 2 and veteran Sheldon Brown took the role Sunday. T.J. Ward’s been solid at strong safety.

PUNT PROBLEMS

The punt team didn’t allow an 81-yard touchdown like it did in Cincinnati in Week 2, but it still had a tough day against the Bills. Leodis McKelvin returned the first two punts 20 and 33 yards to set up touchdowns and a 14-0 Buffalo lead. After that, Reggie Hodges kicked three out of bounds to avoid McKelvin.

“When you have an outstanding return man, you want the ball to go there (up) and over there (sideline),” Shurmur said. “And then you cover it, and it all is coordinated.

“So if the ball’s not where it needs to be at the right time and your coverage has breakdowns, then you get plays.”

Hodges missed 2011 with a torn Achilles’ tendon. He ranks 25th in the league in gross (43.7 yards) and net (34.8) average. Shurmur was asked if the Achilles’ was a factor.

“I don’t know. I think that’s something to be considered,” he said. “I think we need to play better at all positions, including that one.”

CRAZY FOR CAMERON

Second-year tight end Jordan Cameron was one of the stars of training camp, yet didn’t have a catch through two games. Playing behind Benjamin Watson and Alex Smith, he was on the field for a total of 11 offensive snaps.

That changed Sunday with Smith sidelined with a concussion. Cameron played 20 snaps and caught five passes for 45 yards.

“I thought he showed up and did some good things,” Shurmur said. “He had an opportunity on a go ball in the big red zone there where that would’ve made it a great day. But I thought he made progress.”

Cameron dived for the long pass from Weeden, but it went off his hands.

Smith didn’t practice Monday and remains “day-to-day,” so Cameron could see a lot of action again Thursday night.

INJURY REPORT

Brown was limited during practice with a chest injury. He suffered a neck injury in Week 1, left the game in the first quarter and played only one snap in Week 2.

Receiver/returner Joshua Cribbs (knee), linebacker James-Michael Johnson (ribs/oblique) and safety Bubba Ventrone (hand) were also limited. Left guard Jason Pinkston (ankle), defensive end Frostee Rucker (wrist), running back Trent Richardson (knee) and long snapper Christian Yount (shoulder) were full participants.

Receiver Mohamed Massaquoi (hamstring) didn’t practice and Shurmur called him day-to-day.

DEEP TROUBLE

Weeden was also unable to connect on deep throws to Massaquoi and Travis Benjamin. Both were underthrown slightly.

“When you get opportunities to throw the ball downfield you have to hit on them,” Shurmur said. “It’s a combination of things between the quarterback and the receivers. I would say it’s safe to say we are taking more of those shots this year than we did last year.

“Now we have to hit on them. You only get a couple of them a game, the ones you get you got to hit on.”

Weeden said Sunday he thought his performance was “solid” except for the last interception. He went 27-for-43 for 237 yards, a touchdown, two interceptions and a 65.7 rating.

“We’ve all got to play better,” Shurmur said. “I’d be disappointed if he was walking around saying he thought he played well. We’ve all got to play better.”

EXTRA POINTS

Defensive tackle Phil Taylor is progressing from an offseason pectoral tear and may return to practice soon, according to Shurmur. Taylor is on the physically unable to perform list and isn’t eligible to practice until Week 7.

“He’s getting close. In a couple of weeks there, he’ll be out there,” Shurmur said. “He’s doing all of his rehab and getting himself as ready as he can be not being on the field.”

** Shurmur was asked for his reaction to Bills fans cheering victory in Cleveland Browns Stadium.

“Well, I will say this. We need to establish a winning tradition at home and that won’t be the case. End of story,” he said.

** Linebacker Scott Fujita said a meeting with commissioner Roger Goodell hasn’t been scheduled to discuss possible punishment for his alleged role in the Saints’ bounty scandal. Fujita’s three-game suspension has been overturned, at least temporarily.

“We’re looking at schedules and we’ll work something out as quickly as possible,” he said. “Nothing’s confirmed at this point.”

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.