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Tony Grossi's Take: Two unknowns on defense are lone bright spots

Dec 21, 2014 -- 6:44pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty 

CHARLOTTE, NC

Tony’s Take on Browns’ 17-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers

Offense: For the second game in a row, they had fewer than 10 first downs. Johnny Manziel made one pass for 28 yards and Brian Hoyer made one for 81. Other than those two throws, the quarterbacks accounted for 67 yards passing. Isaiah Crowell had 55 yards rushing. Terrance West was benched for another bad practice week. For the fourth game in a row, receiver Josh Gordon failed to make an impact. Bottom line: This is unacceptable.

Defense: Two revelations came out of this day. Rookie cornerback Pierre Desir made his first NFL start and acquitted himself well. He made seven tackles, broke up two passes and held 6-5 rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin to five catches for 47 yards on 12 targets. He played because top draft pick Justin Gilbert had another bad practice week. Also, linebacker Scott Solomon came off the practice squad and hounded Cam Newton with a sack and forced a fumble. Billy Winn had an interception and Karlos Dansby returned from a four-week absence by leading in tackles with 12. Bottom line: Second game in a row allowed more than 200 yards rushing.

Special teams: Garrett Hartley made field goals from 43 and 31 yards. Punter Spencer Lanning averaged 46.5 yards gross and 37 net, and had one touchback in four kickoffs. Travis Benjamin had a 24-yard punt return and Shaun Draughn had a 39-yard kickoff return. The coverage units held their own. Bottom line: Not a negative day.

Coaching: If Johnny Manziel injured his hamstring on a pass play, then why did the coaches call for him to run a sweep on his final play? Something doesn’t add up there. The offense is a tangled mess, the defense can’t stop anybody on the ground and the team has lost four in a row and five of its last six. They also are not getting much right now out of rookie draft picks Gilbert, Manziel and West. Bottom line: Not much improvement going on.

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

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

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
 

 

In relief of Johnny, Brian Hoyer's comeback falls short as Browns lose fourth in a row

Dec 21, 2014 -- 4:08pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

CHARLOTTE, NC

Updated at 5:55 p.m.

As the Browns struggle to identify their quarterback to lead them, their defense was beat by a quarterback with a broken back.

Yes, two weeks after suffering two fractures in his lower back in a car accident, Carolina’s Cam Newton ran and passed the Panthers to the winning touchdown in a 17-13 Browns’ loss.

Newton had runs of 6 and 13 yards and was 3 of 4 passing on the winning drive. He extended the last play amid pressure and fired to running back Jonathan Stewart for the touchdown from 9 yards to send the Browns to their fourth loss in a row and sixth in seven games. The team that was once 6-3 now is 7-8 with a Dec. 28 finale left in Baltimore.

“It’s frustrating, disappointing,” Pettine said. “We got to seven wins and had a lot of football left and we’re still stuck there. We had our chances today, had our chances two weeks ago. We’ve got to find a way to finish.”

The Browns had taken their first lead in two weeks on a Jordan Cameron catch-and-run of 81 yards with 10:11 to go in the fourth quarter.

The author of the pass was Brian Hoyer, who relieved Johnny Manziel late in the first half after Manziel suffered a hamstring injury.

“That’s probably the first time I smiled on the football field in the last month,” Hoyer said of the quick-read, quick-throw to Cameron, who got behind a safety and never looked back.

After Newton’s go-ahead touchdown, Hoyer had one more possession. He underthrew Travis Benjamin on a deep ball that was intercepted. But Benjamin tracked down cornerback Josh Norman on his return, swatted the ball free and recovered it at the Browns’ 29-yard line. Hoyer advanced the ball for two first downs, before coach Mike Pettine elected to punt from the 50 with 3:33 to play.

Pettine said the Browns would have gone for it on fourth down if it were less than 10 yards to go. But he punted on fourth-and-13, and the defense couldn’t get the ball back.

Newton threw for just 201 yards, but he ran for 63 and a touchdown and Stewart added 122. In all, the Panthers gashed the Browns’ defense for 209 rushing yards on 45 attempts.

The Browns were pathetic again on offense, achieving just eight first downs and 228 total yards. Isaiah Crowell (55 yards rushing on 16 attempts) handled most of the rushing load because Terrance West was benched for another bad practice week.

Manziel was just 3 of 8 for 32 yards – and 28 came on one completion to Andrew Hawkins. Although he left the game after a run on which two defenders fell on him, Manziel said the hamstring injury occurred four plays earlier on a quick pass to a slanting Josh Gordon. Gordon’s catch of the pass was overturned on replay and Garrett Hartley kicked a 43-yard field goal for the only points in Manziel’s six quarters as the starting quarterback.

“My foot kind of slipped about three, four, five inches and I ended up falling down,” Manziel said. “Got up and just kind of felt just a little tight in my hamstring.”

After the quarterback sweep, Manziel said he got up and cramped up and “I just felt like something that I hadn’t experienced beofer and felt like I needed to get checked out. Pretty frustrating.”

The anti-Manziel crowd in Bank of America Stadium cheered derisively as Manziel left the game. Newton admonished the fans after the game.

“I’m a fan of his, just like a lot of people are,” Newton said of Manziel. “It was sad to see the crowd respond when he was hurt. That was classless. It takes the integrity out of the game. I told him I was pulling for him. For the crowd to do that, we’re better than that.”

Hoyer finished the first half, came out for the second half and played through. He put together a field-goal drive in the third quarter, running for gains of 11 and 8 yards to set up Hartley’s 31-yard kick.

The quick-hitter to Cameron gave the Browns a 13-10 lead with 9:59 to play.

Hoyer was 7 of 13 for 134 yards in his first appearance since being benched after his 13-game run as the starter.

“I’ve been a backup before. I know how to prepare and be ready,” said Hoyer, who took zero reps with the first team in the practice week.

Hoyer was sacked on his back on his next-to-last play by defensive tackle Kawann Short and needed a timeout to regain regular breathing.

“We knew Hoyer was not a run-threat like Manziel, so we had a lot more free space when Hoyer came in,” Short said. “You can tell the difference. We were relentless. We didn’t care about the scramble.”

Besides benching West, the Browns also reduced play time for cornerback Justin Gilbert. With Joe Haden unable to play because of his shoulder injury, Pettine surprised some by starting Pierre Desir ahead of Gilbert. Desir was targeted over a dozen times by Newton, but the fourth-round rookie helped to hold strapping rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin to just five receptions for 47 yards on 12 targets.

“I thought he made some plays,” Pettine said. “He had a better week (than Gilbert) and we had a little more confidence in him. As to the follow-up about Terrance, neither guy had a very good week for us.”

As to which quarterback finishes the season in Baltimore, Pettine was non-commital without knowing the severity of Manziel’s injury.

Manziel answered only five questions before a Browns PR staff member cut off his post-game interview after five minutes. Manziel turned the final question about how much more comfortable he felt into a rambling appeal to be the team’s starting quarterback heading into the offseason.

“I think these guys see more and see that I’m in the building really putting in a lot of work and I want to be the guy,” Manziel said. “That’s what I want to be fore this organization, so for me, if anything, this has motivated me more to head into this offseason.”

 

There will be plenty of time to stew about the next step in the Browns’ eternal quest for a quarterback.

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

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

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

Tony Grossi's Four Downs: Johnny 2.0 and the Browns' defense have to be a lot better

Dec 20, 2014 -- 6:10pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

Four Downs on Browns v. Carolina Panthers

First down: Johnny 2.0.

Johnny Manziel’s NFL debut was a clunker. Now what? Coordinator Kyle Shanahan has to do a better job of assimilating Manziel’s skill set into the structure of the Browns’ offense already in place. Manziel’s throwing mechanics were a wreck in his first game, the read-option plays were exercises in futility and Manziel’s threat of running was reduced to a joke. Other than that, coaches maintained Manziel showed some “flashes” in his first game. What happened to the “extended plays” we’d heard so much about? It would help Manziel immensely if the offensive line blocked instead of held, if the running backs hit the holes instead of ran into defenders and if the receivers held on to Manziel’s passes. Josh Gordon said he much prefers a mobile quarterback. Well, prove it.

Second down: Getting defensive.

The Browns’ defense let everyone down in the Cincinnati game. Coaches were so baffled by how flat the defense came out for the biggest game of the year that they conducted interviews with players to explore what the heck happened. Like most every team, the Browns’ defense is beaten down and staggering to the finish line of another long NFL season. But with the offense operating with a raw rookie quarterback, the defense has to carry the team if the Browns hope to be competitive in this game and the next one. The war of attrition is taking a toll. Linebacker Karlos Dansby could be back, but linebacker Jabaal Sheard and cornerback Joe Haden could be out.

Third down: Cam’s back is back.

This is the Browns’ first game against Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, the No. 1 pick of the 2011 draft. Newton practiced all week after missing Carolina’s last game because of a back injury sustained in a two-car accident two weeks ago. At 6-5 and 245 pounds, Newton is the prototypical new-wave quarterback – marvelously athletic, capable of hurting defenses with his arm and his legs. Newton’s injury – two fractured transverse processes in his lower back – may discourage him from running in the middle of the field. But if Newton gets his team close to the end zone, his legs certainly become a factor. Since Newton entered the league in 2011, he ranks fifth in the NFL in rushing touchdowns with 31. The only players ahead of him are running backs – Marshawn Lynch (45), Arian Foster (34), Adrian Peterson (34) and LeSean McCoy (32).

Fourth down: What does Kelvin Benjamin have?

It was a banner year for rookie receivers. Benjamin is the fifth in the illustrious class of 2014 the Browns have faced. Here is how the previous four fared against the Browns’ defense: New Orleans’ Brandon Cooks, 3 catches for 17 yards; Jacksonville’s Allen Robinson, 4 catches, 60 yards, 1 TD; Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans, 7 catches, 124 yards, 2 TDs; Buffalo’s Sammy Watkins, 3 catches, 11 yards.

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

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

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

Browns Game 15 Preview: Avoiding a season-ending losing streak or checking out for the year?

Dec 20, 2014 -- 6:05pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

What: Browns (7-7) v. Carolina Panthers (5-8-1), 1 p.m., in Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC.

TV: CBS, WOIO Channel 19 with Tom McCarthy and Adam Archuleta.

The Set-up: All but eliminated from the playoffs for the 12th consecutive year, the Browns are trying to avoid finishing the season on a losing streak for the fifth season in a row. After peaking at 6-3, they have lost four of their last five and three in a row. Expectations for Johnny Manziel’s second NFL start were greatly reduced after his debut last week. The Panthers need two more wins – plus some help – to claim their second NFC South division title in a row. A loss eliminates them from the NFC playoffs.

Series history: Panthers lead, 3-1.

Historical footnote: The Panthers, who were born in 1995, have played the fewest games against the Browns of all existing teams. Their only meeting in Carolina came in 2006. The Panthers’ 20-12 victory was noted for two things. One, defensive end Julius Peppers created havoc for the Browns’ offense all game, recording a sack, a fumble force and recovery, three other quarterback hits, one pass breakup and helping to induce five Browns holding penalties. Two, this game marked the signature moment of the Maurice Carthon one-year reign as Romeo Crennel’s offensive coordinator. On third-and-inches from the Panthers’ 20, Carthon lined up backup fullback Lawrence Vickers behind starter Terrelle Smith in the backfield and called for a halfback option pass to Kellen Winslow. It failed, as Peppers defended the play.

Panthers update: Two wins in a row have them in the hunt for the NFC South playoff berth. They need to win out, which is why quarterback Cam Newton will play two weeks after suffering two fractured transverse processes in his lower back in an auto accident. Newton, the team’s best play-maker, has some formidable weapons in running back Jonathan Stewart (averaging 5.8 yards per attempt his last three games), tight end Greg Olsen (NFL-high 81 catches for tight ends), and rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin (67 receptions, 952 yards, nine TDs). On defense, they have a physical front seven that has proved a difficult matchup for the Browns.

Browns update: They sure seemed to check out for the season in their 30-0 home loss to division rival Cincinnati. The defense is beaten down and may be without linebacker Jabaal Sheard (foot), and cornerbacks Joe Haden (shoulder) and K’Waun Williams (hamstring). The hoopla for quarterback Johnny Manziel’s second NFL start is much less after he laid an egg in his debut. For the second game in a row, Manziel will be operating behind a rookie center (Ryan Seymour) – the team’s fourth to start this year – with two rookie running backs and a rookie fullback. Also, new kicker Garrett Hartley did not receive an opportunity in his first game in place of departed Billy Cundiff. Hartley’s next field goal will be his first all season.

Injury report: Browns – FS Tashaun Gipson (knee) and CB K’Waun Williams (hamstring) are out; TE Gary Barnidge (ribs), LB Karlos Dansby (knee), CB Joe Haden (shoulder), WR Marlon Moore (knee), CB Robert Nelson (hamstring) and LB Jabaal Sheard (foot) are questionable. Panthers – CB Carryington Byndom (hamstring) is out; LB Thomas Davis (knee), LB A.J. Klein (ankle), OG Amini Silatoli (knee) and RB DeAngelo Williams (hand) are questionable.

Our take: Meshing together the Browns’ offense at this point against a physical defense would be a challenge for an experienced quarterback. Having Manziel in there now and expecting efficient production is a pipe dream. Scoring could be dependent on favorable field position. The defense blew out its tires in last week’s game.

Prediction: Panthers cruise, 20-3.

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

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

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

Piling on has made Johnny Manziel a sympathetic figure after one NFL start

Dec 19, 2014 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/USA Today

The Morning Kickoff …

Real dude: I will say this about Johnny Manziel: That Texas boy can sure take a hit. Or a hundred.

Wallace Gilberry? Geno Atkins? Carlos Dunlap? No sweat with dem Bengals. I’m talking about Merril Hoge and Brian Billick. Geez, even Pam Oliver.

Pam Oliver?

One inauspicious game into his NFL career and it’s open season on Manziel. Anybody with a microphone, Twitter account or blog has skewered Johnny Football like Nick Saban never could at Alabama.

“Very humbling,” Manziel said.

He was speaking of the game, a 30-0 shutout loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. But he could have been speaking of the personal attacks that came in the wake of his first game.

Hoge, a notorious Manziel hater, saved his most vitriolic stuff for the person responsible for grading Manziel a first-round pick. He said that person should be fired.

Billick, the former Ravens coach-turned-NFL analyst wrote, “I would be happy with Manziel showing enough respect for the game -- and his teammates -- to not make the silly, self-serving ‘money’ sign with his fingers after he scores a touchdown.”

 

Looking for video of #Manziel coming out of tunnel? U know I got it.

A video posted by Casey Kulas (@grossirulz) on

Oliver, who worked the Fox Sports’ broadcast of the game as the sideline reporter, said on a talk show that Manziel was shunned by his teammates during pre-game introductions. Apparently, Oliver mistook the 5-11 ¾-inch Manziel for Joe Thomas, because she said Manziel was the last to go through the flames of the tunnel (Thomas went last). ESPNCleveland’s Casey Kulas recorded video that showed Manziel getting routine low-fives and handshakes from teammates, contradicting Oliver’s observation.

“It just seems ridiculous,” Manziel said of the inference that his teammates shunned him before his first NFL start.

Truth is, everybody in the Browns’ locker room – far as I can tell – genuinely likes Manziel.

“Johnny is a real impressive guy,” offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. “I don’t think everybody knows really what Johnny is about. Johnny is very humble. Johnny is a real dude.”

Picking up the pieces: One miserable debut – the worst, really, of any Browns quarterback taken in the first round of the draft – and Manziel has emerged as a sympathetic figure.

“I felt bad for him because I know he had a lot of pressure on him, and anytime someone has that pressure on them, they want to go out and perform,” Shanahan said. “He definitely didn’t play his best, but I don’t think we helped him either. I think Johnny can do better, but in order to give him an opportunity to do better, we’ve got to do better all around.”

The guy who apparently mouthed “I could make that throw” during one of Brian Hoyer’s worst misfires couldn’t hit Lake Erie from the deck of the Steamship William G. Mather. He was late with throws and wobbly with throws, which happens when you throw with one foot off the ground, as he did often.

“I think it’s just … and what I told myself throughout the week is when you see something and your eyes see it, trust it,” Manziel said. “Whenever you trust it, then go out and let it fly. That’s what I did all week in practice. I felt like I was decisive in everything I did, and I threw the ball extremely well with a lot of juice on it. Then, when it came out on Sunday, sometimes I just second-guessed myself a couple times, and that’s when I got myself in trouble.”

Shanahan said the mechanical flaws in Manziel’s throwing were partly because of his dual threat skill set.

“I think playing the position is all about balance and being in the pocket and having your base under you and being balanced so you can make throws and really twerk your body and get your base under you,” Shanahan said. “Sometimes when you’re caught in between running and throwing, you lose that balance. That happens with guys who can make plays with their legs, so it’s not just Johnny. It’s anybody who’s mobile like that.

“That’s why you try to find, as a player and as a coach, that fine line between, ‘Hey, you’re going to be a passer here, but once you become a runner, become a runner.’ It’s hard to do both. When you try to do both, usually the accuracy and the velocity of your throws are inconsistent.”

Manziel’s enthusiam to run was dashed by Cincinnati’s “wide nine” alignment on the defensive line. The Bengals made sure Manziel couldn’t scamper around the edges of the defense.

“He wasn’t discouraged from running,” Shanahan said. “I think Johnny wants to run. He enjoys that stuff. They weren’t going to let him. I think that was pretty obvious early. Johnny’s got no problem running. He wants to make plays any way he can. When it’s there he’ll take it, but people know he can run, also. It’s not always there.”

No worries?: Shanahan has two more games this season to prove to the Browns that Manziel can be the franchise quarterback that Jimmy Haslam, er, Ray Farmer thought he was when he spent first- and third-round picks on him in the 2014 draft.

“I feel the same about Johnny as I always have. Johnny is a playmaker,” Shanahan said. “He’s done that throughout his career. Nobody can argue with that at all.

“Johnny is going to have some growing pains. He’s played a type of football that he’s not going to be able to down in and down out in the NFL, but you still want him to do it at times. He did it at times. You know he’s going to have some bad plays from his lack of experience, and we hope to manage those and not put him in those situations as much. When he does have some of those bad plays you hope he comes back and makes one of his great plays that not many people can do.

“We overcompensate for it, and the more reps he gets the better. The more game experience he gets the better. That was a tough one to learn from, but I think he’ll get better from it because I do think he’s a strong guy. I think he does have confidence. He’s been locked in this week. He’s not going in the tank. He realizes he needs to continue to improve, and I think Johnny will continue to improve because that’s the type of a person he is. He won’t shut it down.”

Critics of Manziel, of which there are a zillion, wanted to see him humbled in the NFL. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s see him play a couple more games before writing him off.

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

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

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

Browns' Joe Thomas on media award: I've never been a team MVP on any level

Dec 18, 2014 -- 3:52pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

Extra Points …

Better late than never: Over his seven previous seasons, Joe Thomas has earned seven Pro Bowl berths, six All-Pro designations, and numerous other honors, plus was a finalist for the prestigious NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year award.

But he never claimed the coveted Browns Player of the Year award from the Cleveland chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America.

Consider that oversight rectified.

Thomas was named the 2014 Browns player of the year in a vote among media. In his case, it’s almost a lifetime achievement award.

“It’s really special because I’ve never been named a team MVP on any football team I’ve ever been on because it never goes to a lineman,” Thomas said. “It’s always the quarterback or the running back or the receiver, or somebody on defense that gets a lot of stats.”

The relevant stats onThomas are these: He has started and completed all 126 games of his NFL career, never coming out for a single play. His 7,810 consecutive snaps is the longest active streak in the NFL. As a concession to age (30) and wear and tear, Thomas received numerous days off in training camp and continues on a reduced schedule during the season, usually getting Wednesday off from practice.

“From an NFL player standpoint, he’s a total package,” coach Mike Pettine said. “Very professional, high character, sometimes you have superstar players, players at top of their game and there’s a sense of entitlement (to not) practice hard. He’s the exact opposite of that. We give him a day off, but it’s to protect him from himself. You know you have a special guy when one of your best players is also one of your best examples and your best worker. It’s not a surprise to me that you guys saw that, too.”

The PFWA’s Dino Lucarelli Good Guy Award went to quarterback Brian Hoyer, who, through thick and thin, was always available to media twice a week in the locker room and after every game. The award also cites the winner for the way he “carries himself in the community and with his teammates.”

Eight other players and Pettine were nominated by media for the Good Guy. Thomas has won it two times.

Slow going: In their three-game losing streak, the Browns’ running game has slowed to a crawl, averaging a Trent Richardson-like 3.22 yards per attempt. There have been worse three-game stretches this year – 2.0 in the immediate three games following the Alex Mack season-ending broken leg – but by now you’d have expected things to be corrected.

What’s different now is that rookies Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West have leveled off after outstanding first halves of their seasons, seemingly up against the proverbial rookie wall.

A few weeks ago, Pettine talked of desiring to see some reps on offense by Glenn Winston, the third back who hasn’t yet taken a hand off in a game all year. But Winston has been inactive the past two games.

Pettine attributed Winston’s disappearance on game days to the arrival on Dec. 3 of Shaun Draughn, a three-year back who has been judged a better contributor on special teams.

“It’s not as much Glenn,” Pettine said. “He did good job on special teams. We were very impressed with Shaun Draughn when he came in here. He brought a different skill set, a different mentality, to that. We make that judgment each week of who are the three (backs) we want up, and he’s been the answer each time. Glenn is a guy who has a bright future in this league. It just hasn’t worked out for him yet.”

The non-It factor: The Browns were so flummoxed by the defense’s lax performance in the Cincinnati game, they conducted personal interviews with some players for insight on how to prevent it from happening in the future.

“Whatever it was, that attitude, that ‘it’ factor, we need to find it,” said defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil. “I think Pet’s done a great job of changing the culture. We talked a lot as a defense on Monday that we are planning in the future on being in a lot of big games like this. We’ve had conversations internally with players what they thought it might have been to prevent that in the future.

“For us to be able to take the next step as an organization, We need to be playing our best football in critical games like this past Sunday was. I think that’s part of the process of becoming a good team, playoff team, championship team – knowing how to play big in big moments.”

Brownie bits: Paul Kruger’s 10 sacks are the most for a Browns player since Kamerion Wimbley had 11 in 2006. Kruger is 4.5 off the unofficial club record of 14.5 turned in by Bill Glass in 1965 – 13 years before the NFL recognized the sack as a statistical category. Jack Gregory (1970) and Reggie Camp (1984) have 14 … Not practicing on Thursday were safety Tashaun Gipson (knee), cornerback Joe Haden (shoulder), cornerback K’Waun Williams (hamstring) and receiver Andrew Hawkins (illness) ... Alex Mack (broken leg) is now walking and moving around without the benefit of a scooter ... In Carolina, coach Ron Rivera said quarterback Cam Newton is "on track" to start Sunday against the Browns. Newton missed the last game after a back injury suffered in a two-car accident.

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

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

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

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