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Justin Gilbert's kickoff returns spark talk of putting the ball in his hands more

Oct 08, 2015 -- 5:04pm

By Tony Grossi |



Extra Points …

Gilbert a go-go: Ever since training camp, when coaches finally gave Justin Gilbert some reps as a kickoff returner, the second-year cornerback looked much more natural running with the ball than backpedaling into coverage at his natural position.

In San Diego last week, Gilbert reinforced that opinion with kickoff returns of 35, 37 and 38 yards.

Now there is talk of Gilbert –haven’t we suggested this before? – getting some reps on offense.

“That’s definitely something we’ve talked about and are going to explore,” said offensive coordinator John DeFilippo.

Such talk should be tempered, however. Constant discussion of a so-called “Johnny Package” to get quarterback Johnny Manziel on the field seems more aimed at occupying defensive coordinators’ attention during the practice week than actually being used in a game.

Coach Mike Pettine said that there have been occasions in practice “with numbers and injuries, we’ve had to throw (Gilbert) on offense at wide receiver and he doesn’t look out of place.”

However …

“Just given the depth we have at that position now – you add (running back) Duke Johnson, who has wideout type ability, you have (tight end Rob) Housler, who has wideout type ability in certain situations, it’s hard to justify it.

“But he’s certainly shown the ability. When he’s got the ball in his hands, he can do something with it.”

More likely than a pure wideout position, Gilbert probably would fit into a Percy Harvin-type role lining up in the backfield or the slot and receiving quick pitches, handoffs on ends-around and screen passes. But all of that seems like an experiment for another training camp (see: Terrelle Pryor).

In the meantime, special teams coordinator Chris Tabor said Gilbert “is going to be our guy back there” at kickoff returner.

Gilbert’s productive day on special teams in San Diego included a key block on Travis Benjamin’s 31-yard punt return and a tackle on a San Diego kickoff return.

At least there is something positive to report about Gilbert lately.

Predict this: Defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil was put off by questions about player comments that defensive calls became so predictable in the San Diego game that quarterback Philip Rivers would call out what was coming.

“We knew a lot of their calls (too),” O’Neil said. “There’s a reason we spend so much time in the offices and with the players. At the end of the day, it’s an execution league.

“They did a better job of executing their base offensive plays than we did executing our base defensive plays. The best defense in this league the past two years has been the Seattle Seahawks. They run the same defense every single play. It’s an execution league.”

The Seahawks run the same defense every single play?

“Ninety percent of the time,” O’Neil corrected.

Did he or didn’t he?: Cornerback Tramon Williams told that the league office informed the Browns that Williams actually did not jump offsides on the field-goal miss at the end of the San Diego. The penalty allowed a re-kick, which Josh Lambo made from 34 yards to win the game, 30-27.

A spokesman from the NFL office said that Williams was incorrect, that the league never told the Browns the offsides call was wrong and that film review of the call was inconclusive.

Pettine said he wouldn’t comment specifically on the officiating review of the play.

“I’ve had good communication with the league about it. I feel good about their stance on it and I feel good about where we are with it,” Pettine said.

Pettine was asked if he thought, in the moment, that Williams was offsides on the play

“In the moment, yeah, I did,” he answered.

Red zone woes: DeFillipo will get no argument from anyone when he lamented the offense’s performance inside the red zone. The Browns rank 32nd with only three touchdowns and six field goals in 11 trips inside the 20. League leader Atlanta has 12 touchdowns and two field goals in 15 red zone trips. DeFilippo said, “We have been snake bitten a little bit down there at times with penalties, with some other things, some unforced errors, some bad play calls by me. It has been a myriad of a lot of things, and we need to find more of a way to get the ball in the end zone.”


Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




It's now or never for Mike Pettine in Baltimore on Sunday

Oct 08, 2015 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi |



The Morning Kickoff …

Heat is on: There comes a point in a Browns coach’s career when he faces that turning point game – the game at which his tenure either is secured or his fate is sealed.

I believe Mike Pettine reaches that game Sunday in Baltimore.

Typically in this expansion era, the coach’s fate is sealed much too soon. And that would certainly be the case for Pettine, too.

Pettine’s record is 8-12, which isn’t all that bad when you think about it. It ranks second-best among the seven Browns head coaches in their joyless expansion era. Only Butch Davis’ 9-11 is better – and Davis went on to coax the Browns into the AFC playoffs in his second season.

For the record, Chris Palmer was 4-16, Romeo Crennel 7-13, Eric Mangini 6-14 and Pat Shurmur 4-16. Rob Chudzinski didn’t even make it beyond 16 games (4-12).

Like Palmer, Davis had the benefit of working for an owner, Al Lerner, who demanded excellence every day, who presided over his entire organization without overbearance and commanded such unyielding respect that his employees feverishly strived to not fail him. The expansion Browns reached the playoffs in their fourth year of existence under Lerner’s ownership. The franchise has never recovered from Lerner’s death 13 years ago this month.

Obviously, Pettine is not solely responsible for the turning point at which he arrives. The shotgun marriage with GM Ray Farmer, arranged by owner Jimmy Haslam, has been an unmitigated disaster in player procurement, leadership and accountability.

At this point, only Pettine can save himself, as Farmer’s “work” is largely done.

But recent events suggest Pettine would have to be Houdini, much less Bill Belichick, to turn this thing around.

How it unravels: Most coaching demises with the Browns follow a pattern.

There is the losing of games, of course. But there are also other events, such as downward trends in the coach’s area of expertise -- in this case, defense.

And at some point the coach may say or do something that is borderline bizarre and either lessens the locker room’s confidence in the coach or the owner’s confidence in the coach.

I’m not positive where Pettine’s handling of the Joe Haden situation falls, but I don’t think it helps his cause on either front.

Haden took himself out of Sunday’s game in San Diego about two hours before kickoff when he determined he could not play up to his standards with a broken finger on his right hand. The coaches were thrown for a loop, as Haden never indicated during the practice week that not playing was a possibility.

Coupled with the unavailability of nickel back K’Waun Williams, Haden’s pull-out at the last minute forced coaches to patch together a new defensive plan involving Johnson Bademosi, a special teams core player who was groomed during preseason as an emergency cornerback.

Pettine was upset, and after the game he pointed out it was Haden’s decision not to play. In the heat of an exasperating, last-second loss, Pettine’s comments were understandable. But when he repeated the narrative the next day, it came off as throwing Haden under the bus.

Haden was skewered locally and nationally for not being tough and putting himself above the team. It was widely spoken that Haden was just hiding the fact he has played sub-par football since a lethargic preseason, and he feared another beating like he received in the Oakland game, in which he played with a rib injury after the first play until the broken finger in the second half took him out.

Recognizing that his comments perpetrated the criticism, Pettine apologized to Haden and, according to Tramon Williams, as reported by, to the rest of the team.

Some players may give Pettine high marks for owning up to a mistake.

Others may contrast Pettine’s comments about Haden, a respected team leader whose heart and competitiveness have never been questioned before, with Pettine’s uncanny coddling of a host of unproductive or problematic players over the last two seasons, such as Justin Gilbert, Johnny Manziel, Terrance West, Nick McDonald, Barkevious Mingo, Dwayne Bowe and others, including this year’s so-far-underwhelming draft class.

At the same time, Pettine contributed to or copped a Sgt. Schultz “I know nothing” plea during the departures of locker room stalwarts D’Qwell Jackson, T.J. Ward, Jabaal Sheard, Buster Skrine, Ahtyba Rubin and even Brian Hoyer.

Also, Pettine’s unwillingness to admit something is seriously amiss with the work of pet defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil has to have crossed the minds of players and owner.

Surely, it is not Pettine’s nature to hang most anyone out to dry, and there is a lot to be said for that. All of which made his out-of-character comments about Haden a sign that the pressure is getting to him.

Near the end, Chris Palmer said, “Sometimes I feel like I’m sitting in the front seat of a runaway train.” Pat Shurmur announced, “I’m genuine.” In another era, Sam Rutigliano pleaded, “I’m good for Cleveland.” And Marty Schottenheimer proclaimed, “Play-calling is over-rated.”

Good coaches and good men, all. But their words strained credibility and they could not recover.

On to Baltimore: The only way for Pettine to survive, of course, is not only to coach with an urgency that hasn’t been evident before, but to win.

In Baltimore, the Browns meet a 1-3 Ravens team riding the wave of a lucky win in Pittsburgh handed to them by a crooked-legged kicker. The Ravens are depleted at wide receiver and are restricted to handing off to Justin Forsett – the fifth non-elite back in a row opposed by Pettine’s defense – and throwing to tight ends. They should not be that difficult to game-plan defensively.

Pettine said he challenged his defensive front seven on Wednesday morning.

“All the things we talk about -- get off the ball, knock our guy back, separate from a block violently, tackle. If we want to be successful on defense this year – this week – it starts up front.”

The Ravens are not only a division rival but the team with which Pettine broke into the NFL. He should be familiar with how to beat them. Eric Mangini excelled at game-planning his personal rival, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.

A victory does not guarantee Pettine anything other than the chance to turn it around.

But if Pettine can’t get his team to respond to this challenge, then it is all over and the season will go down the path paved by his predecessors.



Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




Joe Haden explains why he took himself out of Sunday's game

Oct 07, 2015 -- 1:07pm

By Tony Grossi |



Updated at 5:05 p.m.

Extra Points …

The Haden Files: Joe Haden said he didn’t play Sunday in San Diego with a broken finger because he felt he would hurt the team playing virtually with only his left hand.

He said he was hoping a pain shot on Saturday and a cast would enable him to play, and that’s why he waited until close to the roster deadline prior to the game to take himself out.

The lateness of Haden’s decision caused the coaches to scramble to make adjustments because nickel back K’Waun Williams already was deactivated with a concussion.

The Browns played the game with a cornerback trio of Tramon Williams, Pierre Desir and Johnson Bademosi. San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers rolled up 358 passing yards and three touchdowns in the Chargers’ 30-27 victory, a performance which earned Rivers AFC player of the week honors.

Haden gave his explanation after practice on Wednesday.

"My whole goal and intentions were to go out there and play," he said. "I felt I owed it to the team. Just my wanting to go so bad, wanting to play so bad, my body wouldn’t let me. When it came down to it, I thought Saturday came, I’d take shots, try to numb it up. I took the shots, put the cast on it, went out to play and it still felt like I couldn’t use … like I was playing with one hand. I felt I was letting the team down if I played with only my left hand, so it came down to that and that’s why I ended up not playing."

Haden has been excoriated by fans and media for taking himself out. It didn’t help when coach Mike Pettine on two occasions – after the game and then on Monday – detailed that it was Haden’s choice not to play.

Pettine said the criticism heaped on Haden was “unwarranted” and he took the blame for the comments he made. When made aware of the heat directed at Haden, Pettine sent Haden “an extensive text,” Haden said, and then the two talked to patch up things.

“It is unfortunate because Joe is one the faces of our franchise,” Pettine said. “Nobody questions his toughness, his leadership and how important the Browns are to him and what being a Cleveland Brown means to him and vice versa.

“I misspoke. Joe wanted to be out there. He wanted to play, but just in his assessment did not want to put the team at risk, knowing that he could not be at the percentage in his heart that he knew he couldn’t get to.”

Haden said he and Pettine “are good,” and Haden said he understood why the coaches would be upset at the late scratch. Haden also accepted blame for not communicating during the week the possibility that he might not be able to play.

But Haden was also upset with the harsh reaction from fans and some in the media.

“My biggest thing is, for them to say Joe’s not trying to play, that really hurts because I’ve been in Cleveland a long time and you feel you have to prove yourself over and over, playing through injuries,” Haden said.

“If I’m hurt, I’m hurt. If I can’t go, I can’t go. Hurt is different than injury. I play hurt all the time. But if I’m injured and I feel I’m going to hurt the team, I’m not going to go out there. I don’t want to be out there hurting us. I just tried to get it to the last minute to see if I could be out there.”

Haden said he broke the finger on his right hand in the second half of the Oakland game. He also played that game with a rib injury suffered on the first play of the game. Haden said both injuries are still affecting him, but he is intent, again, on playing Sunday in Baltimore.

“It’s the worst feeling ever (not being able to play),” Haden said. “That’s why I kept it to the last minute. Me not being out there, I understand … I’m a guy that we need for this defense. I can see where the coaches come from knowing they have to make a gameplan decision at the time of the game.”

The NFL has asked for and received an explanation from the Browns as to why Haden did not play after being listed probable. A league spokesman said in an email that “the matter is still under review.”

Pettine said, “(We) just presented them with the facts that he practiced and we expected him to play based on how practice went. To me, it’s a standard procedural thing. I don’t know how often this happens, but we don’t see this as a big deal. I doubt the league will as well.”

K’Waun is back: Williams passed through concussion protocol and practiced on Wednesday.

The second-year cornerback said he suffered a concussion in the Tennessee game, but was not checked by a doctor because he experienced no symptoms until the day after.

It was his third concussion in less than two years. Williams said he is not concerned about his future.

“I just have to be smart,” he said. “(My family and former coaches) told me to be safe, know when it’s right and know when it’s time not to play. If I don’t feel like I can play, just make the decision. But I feel good. I’m still having fun. I still love this game.”

He said the multiple concussions won’t affect the way he plays.

“I just have to lead properly, keep my head out of the way. But still play the game aggressively, still make the plays I’ve got to make,” Williams said.


Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




Tony Grossi's Scouting Report: Baltimore Ravens

Oct 07, 2015 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi |




Browns v. Baltimore Ravens

Sunday, 1 p.m., M&T Bank Stadium; Baltimore, MD

Record: 1-3.

Last game: Defeated Pittsburgh Steelers, 23-20 in OT, Oct. 1, in Pittsburgh.

Coach: John Harbaugh, 83-48, eighth year.

Series record: Ravens lead, 24-8.

Last meeting: Ravens won, 20-10, Dec. 28, in Baltimore.

League rankings: Offense is 16th overall (19th rushing, 11th passing), defense is 13th overall (15th rushing, 16th passing), and turnover differential is minus-3.


1. Quarterback Joe Flacco:While his critics cringe at the mention of Flacco in the category of “elite” quarterbacks, his record says otherwise. Since 2008, Flacco’s 83 wins are second to only Tom Brady’s 84. His 116 consecutive starts are third behind Eli Manning (171) and Philip Rivers (148). And he has proved a clutch performer in the playoffs, with 10 post-season wins, including seven on the road, and a Super Bowl MVP trophy. His arm strength is top five at his position.

2. Special teams: The last three years under special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg, the Ravens have finished fifth, fifth and second in the Rick Gosselin Special Teams Rankings. Justin Tucker and Sam Koch may be the best kicker-punter tandem in the league. Injuries have thrown their return game into a state of flux, however.

3. Strong at home: Since John Harbaugh became coach in 2008, the Ravens’ 45-12 record at home is the third-best in the NFL. Their average margin of victory in that time is 12.8 points.


1. Depleted receivers: No. 1 receiver Steve Smith Sr. is expected to be out with four microfractures in his back. No. 1 draft pick Breshad Perriman has not yet played because of a knee injury. And Michael Campanaro, a late-round pick in 2014 who provided a jolt of energy in the first few games, was placed on injured reserve with a back injury. That leaves the Ravens with a starting tandem of Kamar Aiken, who has 35 catches in parts of five seasons, and Marlon Brown, who has 32 in his past 18 games. This week, the Ravens traded a low-round pick to St. Louis for receiver Chris Givens.

2. Depleted pass rush: All-time franchise sack leader Terrell Suggs went down with a season-ending Achilles tendon injury in Week 1, reducing the Ravens pass rush to mediocre. Elvis Dumervil is still a force on the outside, but he doesn’t have a complement to reduce double teams. The Ravens signed 35-year-old Jason Babin to help, but he hasn’t produced yet.

3. Offensive change: Through no fault of their own, the Ravens have had to constantly change offensive coordinators. After the 2013 season, Jim Caldwell left to become head coach of the Detroit Lions. He was replaced by Gary Kubiak. After one season, Kubiak left to become head coach of the Denver Broncos. He was replaced by Marc Trestman. They are losing coordinators for the right reasons, but every transition makes it harder on the offense.

Players to watch:

1. Quarterback Joe Flacco: His 13-1 record against the Browns is the best for a current quarterback against any NFL team. He has 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions in this games, for a passer rating of 92.0.

2. Running back Justin Forsett: A 1,266-yard rusher last season, he got on track with a 150-yard game in the big win against Pittsburgh.

3. Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil: His 10 sacks against the Browns are the most he’s posted against one team. The total includes a four-bagger while with the Denver Broncos in 2009.

Injury report: OT Eugene Monroe (concussion) has missed the last three games. DE Chris Canty (calf) has missed the last two games. TE Crockett Gillmore (calf) missed the last game. WR Steve Smith (back) is considered week to week. WR Michael Campanaro (back) was placed on injured reserve. WR Breshad Perriman (knee) has not played in a game.

Small world: General Manager Ozzie Newsome was a Browns first-round pick in 1978, played 13 seasons, and is the Browns all-time leader in receptions … Senior personnel assistant George Kokinis was the Browns GM for eight games in 2008 … Director of pro personnel Vince Newsome played for the Browns (1991-92) and was a Browns scout for three years … Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg had the same title with the Browns (2001-06) … Defensive line coach Clarence Brooks had the same title with the Browns (1999).



Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




Mike Pettine plans no major changes to stem defense's plunge to No. 32

Oct 06, 2015 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi |



The Morning Kickoff …

Thump!: After San Diego posted another 438 yards on the Browns on Sunday, the defensive unit with the most dollars allocated to it in the NFL has sunk to last in overall rankings through four weeks.

The last time a Browns defense finished a year ranked last in yardage allowed was the expansion season of 1999.

Remember that inaugural expansion defense of John Thierry, Darius Holland, John Jurkovic, Wali Rainer, Jamir Miller and Corey Fuller? That group gave up 377.9 yards per game. This year’s defense is yielding 406.3 yards a game.

More perspective: The Browns ranked 23rd in yards and ninth in scoring last season in the first year of the Mike Pettine defense. They are 32nd in yards and 20th in scoring this season through four games.

Obviously, it’s a backwards trend despite more investment in dollars, draft picks and free agents.

Pettine responded on Monday by saying he foresees no changes in personnel or scheme.

“I don’t need see any wholesale changes,” Pettine said.

“There won’t be a dramatic scheme shift. We have to evaluate everything we are doing defensively. We have to coach it better, and we have to play it better.”

Pettine learned the NFL game under the helm of Rex Ryan. But his defense is starting to more resemble the less-heralded editions of Rex’s brother, Rob.

Players have been out of position, resulting in huge gains by opponents on seemingly innocuous plays. And it constantly is strafed at the ends of halves. In 20 games under Pettine, the Browns have allowed 96 points in the final two minutes of the first or second half. San Diego drove for field goals in the final moments of both halves on Sunday.

“Yeah, I can’t sit here and say that it’s not a source of frustration, it’s not a source of disappointment,” Pettine said. “We need to play better. We need to play better across the board, and we haven’t. That’s why we’re 1-3. Defensively, given my background and just where we are as a coaching staff and having worked closely with those guys for so long and continue to, that whole room is upset. It’s prideful, and it’s players and coaches alike.”

After offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan resigned in a snit after last season and was replaced by John DeFilippo, Pettine said he would immerse himself in the offense in his second season. Part of the reasoning was Pettine’s confidence in the maturation of Jim O’Neil as defensive coordinator after one year on the job.

Pettine said Monday he doesn’t feel the need to return his personal attention to the defensive side and assist O’Neil in putting out fires on defense.

“I don’t because I’m involved and I have a lot of … The one thing that I’ve already said we’re not going to do is we’re not going to panic,” he said. “We know what we need to do and we need to do it better. I have a lot of faith in Jim O’Neil and the rest of that staff. We’ve showed that we’re very capable of playing well. We just need to do it on a more consistent basis.

“We know we’re close, but there are things we have to do better.”

The Haden files: reported the NFL is looking into why the Browns listed cornerback Joe Haden as probable to play on their final injury report of the week and then Haden wasn’t active for the game in San Diego.

The league’s procedure requires the Browns to provide an explanation for the discrepancy within 48 hours.

Pettine said Haden decided prior to pre-game warmups that he couldn’t play with a broken finger. He also suffered a rib injury the previous week against Oakland.

“We left it up to Joe, and he made the decision that he didn’t want to go,” said Pettine, who indicated coaches were surprised and had to adjust the morning of the game.

Davis up: Haden’s abrupt deactivation was the reason No. 3 quarterback Austin Davis was made active for the San Diego game, Pettine said.

It was the first time Davis dressed for a game since joining the Browns on Sept. 7. He received a two-year contract extension on Sept. 30.

Pettine said there was no change in the quarterback rotation -- that Johnny Manziel was “clearly” No. 2 and Davis was No. 3.

It appeared on some CBS camera shots during the game that Davis was interacting much more with starter Josh McCown and offensive coordinator John DeFilippo than Manziel did while the offense was on the sideline. Pettine said that wasn’t the case and the cameras may have caught the quarterbacks “at bad times.”

“Johnny is very interactive with it,” Pettine said.

McCown said, “I think it is more a reflection of that is how (Davis) is wired. He loves to study those pictures and see what is happening so he can not only help himself get prepared but also be able to give -- whether it is me or Flip -- any little tidbits of feedback that you can get. We talk about it all the time. It is all hands on deck. There are no secrets on the sideline. If there is information that you see or feel that can help us, pass that along. I think that is what Austin is trying to do.”

Welcome back, Ray: Browns GM Ray Farmer returned to work on Monday as he was reinstated from a four-week league suspension for violating electronic device rules last year by texting coaches during games.

Pettine said he saw Farmer briefly Monday morning while Farmer was watching tape of the 30-27 loss to the Chargers. The coach said he would meet with Farmer later in the day to go over “where we were with each guy” on the roster.

“Not to speak for him, but I know he’s thrilled to be back,” Pettine said.

Farmer has declined to be available to the media upon his reinstatement.



Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




Tony Grossi's Take: Browns defense is running up some horrendous numbers

Oct 04, 2015 -- 9:44pm

By Tony Grossi |




Tony Grossi’s Take on Browns’ 30-27 loss to San Diego Chargers

Offense: Can we slam the brakes on talk of benching Josh McCown? He was very good, throwing for 356 yards and two TDs with no interceptions and a lost fumble early that didn’t figure into the scoring. It was good to see McCown using backs Isaiah Crowell (62 yards, three catches) and Duke Johnson (85, 1 TD, on nine) in the passing game. They also had 94 yards rushing combined. Also, kudos to tight end Gary Barnidge for catching everything thrown his way (six for 75). Bottom line: Twenty-seven points and 432 total yards should be good enough to win.

Defense: The Chargers were missing three starters on their offensive line and then lost their second and third receivers during the game. Yet the Browns were unable to disrupt Philip Rivers’ game. Rivers consistently beat the Browns with short crossing routes to receivers with nobody in their vicinity. Back Danny Woodhead (61 yards) and reserve receiver Dontrelle Inman (68) each made giant plays with short passes. As usual the Browns couldn’t stop a team from scoring in the last two minutes of the halves. The Chargers drove for field goals each time, including the game winner. Bottom line: In their last three games, opposing quarterbacks have thrown for 929 yards and seven touchdowns and produced a 109.9 rating on the defense.

Special teams: Tramon Williams’ rush on the first game-winning field goal try was flagged for offsides, giving Chargers rookie Josh Lambo a reprieve, which he made. Nobody was pointing a finger at Williams for trying to make a play at the end. Justin Gilbert averaged 36.7 yards on three kickoff returns. He’s such a natural with the ball in his hands, you wonder if he could contribute on offense. Kicker Travis Coons was good on all four field goal tries, extending his streak to seven in a row to start his Browns career. Andy Lee’s 46.8-yard net average was par for the course. Bottom line: One flag spoiled a huge day.

Coaching: Pettine’s defense continues to be a drag on things. Either he needs to get more involved in the defense or coordinator Jim O’Neil has to change some things. It looked at times as if Rivers knew the perfect play for what was called. And the drives at the end of halves are killers. There were also 12 penalties for 91 yards, which is a reflection on coaching. Bottom line: Close but no cigar.


Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




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