BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – It’s amazing what a few wins can do for a football team, and a head coach.
After a frustrating and dismal 0-5 start, all of the sudden things are looking up for the Cleveland Browns.
Sunday’s win at Oakland ended a 12-game road losing streak. It was the Browns’ second straight victory and their 4th in the last 7 games.
“I don’t know about turning the corner but what I do know is that we beat a quality opponent at home last week, then went on the road and won,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “For the most part we’ve got a healthy team and we’ve got a lot of young players who are getting better. Only time will tell how good they can be.”
It wasn’t pretty but it got the job done. Most wins in the NFL are hardly a work of art. Just hard work.
“I’m happy that our guys found a way to win,” Shurmur said. “I’m proud of our coaches and players were able to get a second win in a row. Now the challenge will be getting back into the process and getting ready for the Chiefs.”
Defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin sees that hard work starting to pay off.
“We’re definitely getting it together and putting all the pieces together,” Rubin said. “I like the direction we’re going.”
The return of Rubin from a calf injury coupled with the return of Phil Taylor from a torn pectoral muscle has solidified the middle of the defensive line. The Browns held Oakland to 85 total rushing yards. It was the 3rd straight game in which they held the opposition to under 100 rushing yards – the first time that’s happened since 2003.
“We’re definitely doing a good job and there’s a difference with us both in there,” Rubin said. “If I’m not making big plays, he is.”
Shurmur used receiver Josh Gordon is a prime example of the growth of the Browns this season. The supplemental draft pick came into camp 2 weeks after being selected out of shape, not knowing the offense, quarterback, coaches or how to play at the NFL level.
Look at Gordon now.
He leads the Browns with 5 touchdown receptions – including a 44 yarder Sunday against the Raiders – and 646 receiving yards. He’s also tied for 3rd on the team with 34 catches.
“I feel as though I’m where I’m supposed to be for my rookie season and I’m trying to get a lot better,” Gordon, who caught a career-high 6 catches and 116 yards in the win, said.
Another example of growth – winnable games that used to slip away, aren’t.
Clinging to a 13-10 lead and the Raiders driving, cornerback Sheldon Brown picked off Carson Palmer at the 6-yard line with 9:38 to play.
The Browns’ offense marched 14 plays and 94 yards over the next 6:04 to bury the Raiders in the black hole.
Even with the win, Shurmur admitted they left points on the field and the game didn’t need to be as tight as it was.
“We left some meat on the bone,” Shurmur said. “We left some plays out there, and we can learn from that.”
With 4 games remaining, the Browns equaled their win total from a year ago and have already surpassed last season’s 218 point offensive output but the area of improvement that Shurmur has noticed is the most important one – the win-loss column.
“The fact that we’re making improvements that are pointing toward winning,” Shurmur said. “We’re finding ways to get over the hump. I feel good about where we’re going, we just need to keep going.
“It’s easy to have momentum stop, we just need to guard against that.”