July 31, 2014

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(Updated) Browns coach Rob Chudzinski sticks with QB Brandon Weeden as starter

Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden throws against the Detroit Lions Sunday in Cleveland. Detroit won 31-17. (AP Photo/David Richard)

Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden throws against the Detroit Lions Sunday in Cleveland. Detroit won 31-17. (AP Photo/David Richard)

BEREA – Coach Rob Chudzinski is sticking with quarterback Brandon Weeden.

Despite him falling to 0-3 as the starter with a 31-17 loss to the Lions on Sunday.

Despite the logic-defying interception on a backhanded flip in the fourth quarter.

With veteran Jason Campbell sitting on the bench with 31 career wins in 71 starts.

“This was one game,” Chudzinski said Monday. “I thought that Brandon played well in spurts, and at times he obviously made critical mistakes.”

The Browns haven’t signed a third quarterback following Brian Hoyer’s season-ending knee injury, so the options are Weeden and Campbell. Chudzinski called the competition close during training camp, yet he isn’t going with Campbell, who was most recently a full-time starter with Oakland for the first six games in 2011 before getting hurt.

“There’s nothing blocking that. I feel good about Jason,” Chudzinski said. “This has been one game. I thought Brandon played well, did a lot of things to make plays to help us beat Buffalo in that game. We have to really just work on those critical errors.”

Weeden went 26-for-43 for 292 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions and a 76.9 rating Sunday in his return to the starting lineup. The self-described boneheaded interception was the low point of a second half in which the Browns were outscored 24-0 and didn’t record a first down in the third quarter. It came with less than five minutes left, the Browns on the Detroit 44-yard line and in need of a tying touchdown.

The image of the backhanded flip — an uglier version of a long double-play toss to the bag by a second baseman — isn’t going away anytime soon. The reaction from fans and media was immediate and intense, including calls for his job.

Chudzinski said he never considered benching Weeden, nor was it discussed.

Weeden said his confidence won’t be rattled by the embarrassing pick, and Chudzinski dismissed the notion that the rest of the team could lose faith because of such a play.

“No, I don’t see that at all,” Chudzinski said. “He was trying to get rid of the ball as best he could. At that position, you see it across the league, guys make mistakes.

“They’re going to throw interceptions and things like that. It’s a matter of being smart with the football and we have to take care of the football.”

Linebacker Craig Robertson was the only starter on either side of the ball available in the locker room Monday during the 45 minutes open to the locker room. He endorsed Chudzinski’s decision to stand behind Weeden.

“Yeah, he’s our quarterback,” Robertson said. “You can’t toss and turn quarterbacks every week. You’ve got to stick with one and we’ve got to rally behind him. He’s our quarterback.”

The flip went against everything the coaches teach.

“We don’t ever want to flip a ball like that,” Chudzinski said. “When you do that, and you’re pitching something underhand, it has a tendency of going up on ya and rising on ya. So obviously you don’t want to do it in that matter. You want to throw the ball out of bounds or take the sack if you have to.”

Weeden, who turned 30 Monday, acknowledged after the game he should’ve taken the sack. He said he was trying to get the ball out of bounds but was unable to get enough strength behind the flip with Lions tackle C.J. Mosley bearing down.

“Regardless if he had both feet and I was falling on my face, I should’ve just tucked it and I didn’t,” Weeden said Sunday. “It’s on me.

“That play in that situation, it all happened so fast, you’re trying to make a play, you want to be smart, don’t take the sack, but I’ve just got to fall on it. Take the sack and move on.”

Weeden’s first-half interception, intended for fullback Chris Ogbonnaya on a wheel route, ended a career-best string of 111 passes without an interception. It was Cleveland’s first turnover since Week 3.

Weeden was under pressure from Lions tackle Ndamukong Suh, who may have hit his arm. Weeden continued a trend of struggling under duress, with Profootballfocus.com determining he was 3-for-12 for 23 yards with two interceptions under pressure. The focus of last week was on the 16 sacks he’d taken in two-plus games, which might have contributed to the ill-advised pick and an intentional grounding penalty from a clean pocket.

Weeden ranks 28th in the NFL with a 71.4 rating, ahead of only Chad Henne, Mike Glennon, Carson Palmer, Christian Ponder, Eli Manning, Josh Freeman and Blaine Gabbert. Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco is 26th with a 76.2 rating.

Weeden is 30th in completion percentage (56.2), tied for 18th with five interceptions and tied for 25th with a 3.3 interception percentage. He has four touchdowns.

The numbers aren’t any better in the most critical situations. He’s completed 51 percent with no touchdowns and an interception for a 62.1 rating in the fourth quarter. He’s last on third down with a 44.0 rating, including no touchdowns and three interceptions.

In two years, he’s 5-13 as a starter with 18 touchdowns, 22 interceptions and a 72.3 rating. He started the first two games this season, missed two weeks with a sprained thumb, then replaced Hoyer in the first quarter of Week 5 vs. Buffalo.

“Well, looking all the way back, I think there has been improvement and growth in his game,” Chudzinski said. “I go back to the Buffalo game where he made plays and was a big part of us winning that game. And this game where you look at the first half, and he played well and made some key plays again to help us.”

Chudzinski said the loss and the struggles of the offense weren’t about one person. A goal for this week is more consistency Sunday in Green Bay.

“We’re playing well at times and at times we’re not playing so well,” he said. “There’s also mistakes from other guys there, too. At times we didn’t have anybody open and he was trying to find somebody and we had some mental mistakes, whether it was in the run game or protection or routes or whatever they are.

“So obviously the quarterback is the guy that everybody sees and that’s part of the job, but we all have to get better and play more consistently overall. It’s never just about one play or person to assign blame. We all can be better.”

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

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  • oldruss

    Not sure what Weeden has to do to lose his job, but Sunday’s underhand flip of the ball for an interception, when even an intentional grounding call would not have cost the Browns the ball in that situation, probably should warrant bringing in Campbell. It’s not like Campbell is some untested rookie, and while he’s not in the same class as say Aaron Rogers, who the Browns face this Sunday up in Green Bay, he has some 30 NFL games under his belt.