September 20, 2014

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Browns drop to 0-2 again with 14-6 loss to Ravens; QB Brandon Weeden leaves with sprained thumb

Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden passes the ball against the Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore, Md., Sunday. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden passes the ball against the Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore, Md., Sunday. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

BALTIMORE – The Browns are 0-2 for the fifth time in six years and the sixth in eight.

They’ve lost 11 straight to Baltimore, stretching the definition of rivalry.

They have an injured quarterback, and the clock’s already ticking on when he’ll be run out of town.

Welcome back to Cleveland, Chud. Things never seem to change.

The Browns lost 14-6 to the Ravens (1-1) on Sunday to drop Rob Chudzinski to 0-2 in his coaching career. He might have to go with Jason Campbell at quarterback next week in Minnesota, because Brandon Weeden left the stadium with his sprained right (throwing) thumb in a big, black brace.

X-rays were negative, but he left the game in the fourth quarter after banging it on a helmet while throwing to receiver Greg Little, who dropped the pass. Little had at least two drops Sunday to follow two in the opener.

Weeden stayed in the game for another play, then left for the locker room.

“It was tough to put pressure on the ball,” he said. “It hurts. Doesn’t feel too good.”

Weeden said it was too early to tell if he’ll be able to play next week.

“We’ll find out more tomorrow,” he said. “It depends on how it responds and if I heal quick enough.”

The Browns led 6-0 at halftime, but it’s tough to win in the NFL when you don’t score touchdowns. In an age when offensive records are set weekly, the Browns have 16 points and one touchdown in two games under longtime coordinator Norv Turner.

“We just didn’t sustain enough drives throughout the course of the game,” Weeden said. “Opportunities are there, but we just weren’t able to capitalize and make the plays when we needed to.”

The Baltimore defense gave up 49 points to Denver in an opening loss and is still in transition after losing several key pieces from its Super Bowl team. But it stopped running back Trent Richardson most of the day, including inside the 10-yard line in the first quarter, sacked Weeden five times and played its best on third downs (4-for-15).

Billy Cundiff made field goals of 21 and 51 yards on Cleveland’s first and last drives of the first half, then the scoring stopped. The Browns gained only 85 yards in the second half and went 2-for-8 on third down.

“We’ve just got to keep grinding,” said Richardson, who rushed 18 times for 58 yards, a 3.2 average. “We’ve got to take advantage of when we’re in the red zone. When the defense makes stops, we’ve got to take advantage of it. That’s a good defense and that’s a good team. As of right now, they’re still the Super Bowl champs.”

While the Browns failed to make the big plays after halftime, quarterback Joe Flacco and the Ravens were just getting going against a Cleveland defense that pitched a shutout in the first half, allowed fewer than 300 yards for the second straight week (296) and got a sparkling debut from rookie outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo, who had a sack on his first snap.

Flacco had two beautiful passes against tight coverage dropped in the end zone in the first half, but responded by going 5-for-5 for 78 yards on third down in the two touchdown drives. He’d find a matchup he liked against cornerbacks Buster Skrine and Chris Owens, his line would give him time and he’d keep the chains moving. The Ravens were 8-for-16 on third down, just like Miami was against the Browns in Week 1.

Flacco was in a hurry to leave the stadium because his wife, Dana, gave birth to their second child, Daniel, about an hour before the game. The memorable day included 22-for-33 passing for 211 yards, a touchdown and a 94.4 rating, as Flacco became the only quarterback since the 1970 merger to start a career 11-0 vs. an opponent.

“He made some plays down the stretch to win them the game, for sure,” Owens said. “We’ve got to stay positive and sustain our level of play throughout the whole game on defense.”

Weeden fell to 0-3 vs. the Ravens and 5-12 in his career. He was 21-for-33 for 227 yards and an 83.8 rating and was hit 12 times after 16 against Miami.

Chudzinski and Weeden said the protection was better, but it failed on third down. As Flacco had time and found the right matchup, Weeden was pressured and either didn’t have mismatches to exploit or didn’t find them.

As is usually the case with the Browns, the opportunities on offense were few. And when they came, the Browns wasted them.

After a 53-yard pass to tight end Jordan Cameron put the Browns on the 7-yard line to start the first drive, they settled for the field goal. Richardson was stopped for 3 yards and then 1, and Weeden threw away the ball on third down.

The second half came down to two missed chances.

Trying to answer the Ravens’ first touchdown, fullback Chris Ogbonnaya released out of the backfield and ran free down the left sideline. Weeden spotted him out of the corner of his eye, but his rope was a tad long, going off the outstretched fingertips of Ogbonnaya at the Baltimore 38-yard line.

“Looking back, I probably would give it a little more air, give him a chance to run through it,” Weeden said. “I tried to get it on him as quick as possible so he could run with it. Just missed. There’s no excuses for it.”

The Browns’ last best chance to score came at the end of the third quarter. They took over at the Baltimore 45-yard line after linebacker Craig Robertson forced a Ray Rice fumble and linebacker D’Qwell Jackson recovered.

Weeden looked to throw deep on first down, but was sacked for a 9-yard loss. After a 15-yard completion on third-and-19, the quarter ended. Chudzinski went for it on fourth-and-4 from the 39, and Weeden threw a short crossing route to Cameron, who extended the ball to the 35-yard line as he was tackled.

The measurement was so close, the referee pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket to gauge whether the ball had reached the orange first-down marker. Then he signaled first down for the Ravens.

Chudzinski challenged for the first time in his career, but the call was upheld.

“It was centimeters,” Weeden said.

“Coach Turner talked about you don’t want to have any what-ifs,” Cameron said. “What if I reached a little farther? So it’s going to be one of those things that keep you up at night.

“He said it was the closest spot he’d ever seen.”

The Browns’ final shot came with Campbell taking his first snap with the first-team offense from the 1-yard line with 3:34 left. He threw three incompletions before a desperation underhand toss to Cameron came up short of the first down.

Weeden ended the opener with an underhanded flip under pressure.

“You gotta bounce back,” Weeden said. “There’s no reason to feel sorry for ourselves. We’ve got to find a way to win games. This is a strong-willed, strong-minded team.”

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