April 17, 2014

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Browns coach Rob Chudzinski choosing to stress the team’s strong play against Patriots, not the frustrating finish

Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden  tackles New England Patriots tight end Matthew Mulligan after a catch in the fourth quarter on Sunday. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden tackles New England Patriots tight end Matthew Mulligan after a catch in the fourth quarter on Sunday. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

BEREA — Browns coach Rob Chudzinski stuck with his script and chose to accentuate the positive Monday afternoon.

It wasn’t easy, though, coming less than 24 hours after Cleveland completely melted down in a 27-26 loss to the New England Patriots.

“I see the light and am encouraged by our team,” Chudzinski said. “I see a lot of really positive signs — and I think they do, too — and you see the progress that we’ve made in terms of the mindset of the team.

“We have to build on the positives, and the results will come. That’s what I’m preaching, and I believe that. Of course, we’re not getting the outcomes that we want so bad, but it’s going to come.”

For the second week in a row, the defense had an opportunity to secure a gutsy victory but failed in spectacular fashion, allowing 122 yards in a 128-second span Sunday.

The Patriots trailed 26-14 with 2:39 remaining at Gillette Stadium, but stole a one-point victory when Tom Brady threw touchdown passes to receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola in the final 1:01.

Adding to the misery, New England’s 13-point explosion was aided by questionable penalties against cornerback Leon McFadden (pass interference) and safety Jordan Poyer (unnecessary roughness).

Though several Browns players blamed the officiating after the game, Chudzinski chose his words carefully to avoid doing so. But he reiterated he didn’t agree with the late flags.

“I don’t (blame the loss on them) because I can’t control it and we can’t control it,” he said. “We have to operate within the rules of what we can and can’t do.

“We had opportunities in all three phases to make plays and make a difference in the game. We weren’t able to get it done.”

One week earlier, Jacksonville escaped with a 32-28 victory by driving the length of the field for the winning touchdown with 40 seconds left. Receiver Cecil Shorts III hauled in the 20-yard scoring pass from Chad Henne, outfoxing cornerback Joe Haden.

Though Cleveland’s defense remains among the NFL leaders in most categories, its back-to-back late collapses have tainted those numbers.

“When you have the game in your hands, you want to close it out defensively,” Chudzinski said. “That’s one of the things that we want to get better at and improve. We just need to do better.”

Not only did the coach keep a stiff upper lip at his news conference, he allowed the players to recover privately from their trip to New England. The Browns were given the day off and did not have to answer questions from the media.

“I want them to recharge and get ready to go on Wednesday, so we have a great week in getting ready for the Bears,” Chudzinski said. “They actually came in and worked out and met this morning. From talking to them, they watched a lot of film together, which you like to see. We need to talk through situations like that, go through them as a group.”

As it stands, Cleveland will carry a 4-9 record into its home finale Sunday against Chicago, which is battling for the NFC North Division title. The Browns have lost seven of their last eight games, along with any momentum they built earlier in the season.

Chudzinski, however, insists that the come-from-ahead loss to New England proved “that we can play with anybody in this league and go toe-to-toe with anybody in this league.”

“Experience is a great teacher for a team,” he continued. “There are things that we can take from this game and build on. You see the signs, you see the progress, but it happens over time.”

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.

NEXT UP

WHO: Cleveland vs. Chicago
WHEN: Sunday, 1 p.m.
WHERE: FirstEnergy Stadium
TV/RADIO: Channel 19; WKNR 850-AM, WKRK 92.3-FM, WNCX 98.5-FM