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NFL Team Report - Cleveland Browns - INSIDE SLANT
The Cleveland Browns statistically have one of the better defenses in the NFL, but if they are going to gain elite status they must find a way to play better in the second half.
Six games into the season the Browns are 3-3, a game behind the Bengals in the AFC North. They were ahead at halftime in all six games and lost the lead in the second half three times. In those three losses they were outscored, 55-3, in the second half.
"We weren't able to close the game out in the second half," Coach Rob Chudzinski said, referring to the 31-17 loss to the Detroit Lions. "That's something we need to learn and do."
The Browns entered the Lions game with the fourth ranked defense. They were ninth in points allowed. Those ranking slipped to seventh and 11th after the Lions scored 24 unanswered points in the second half.
Second year linebacker Craig Robertson, second on the team with 39 tackles, has taken it upon himself to shore up the defense. He took blame for the meltdown against the Lions. He missed a tackle on Brandon Pettigrew on a crucial third down play and gave up the go-ahead touchdown pass to Joseph Fauria. He had difficulty containing running back Reggie Bush.
"We pride ourselves on (how we play on) the defensive side of the ball," Robertson said. "So to give up that many rushing yards and stuff like that, it shocks and hurts us. It digs deeper in me even more because I felt like it was my fault on a lot of it.
"Reggie Bush getting out like that (39-yard run), I had him and he got out some time. I own up to it and I've got to keep battling."
The Browns next two games are on the road in Green Bay and Kansas City. Both teams won Sunday.
NFL Team Report - Cleveland Browns - NOTES, QUOTES
--The Browns continue having problems defensively on third down. The Lions converted eight of 14 (57 percent) third down plays. Opponents have hit on 41 of 93 third downs (44.1 percent) on the season.
Part of the problem in the Detroit game was the defense was on the field almost twice as long as the Browns offense in the second half. The Browns had the ball 10 minutes, 35 seconds in the second half compared to 19:15 for the Lions.
The Lions were six of seven on third down in the second half.
The Browns third down defense ranks 29th.
-- Last week Travis Benjamin returned one punt 57 yards to set up a field goal and one 79 yards for a touchdown.
Benjamin's longest return Sunday was two yards. He returned three for a minus 10 yards.
--The Browns were penalized nine times for 87 yards against the Lions. They had been averaging six penalties a game.
NFL Team Report - Cleveland Browns - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--WR Greg Little scored his first touchdown of the season Sunday on a two-yard pass from Brandon Weeden.
--FS Tashaun Gipson got his second interception of 2013 when he prevented a touchdown with a pick in the end zone.
--CB Buster Skrine broke up two more passes to increase his team leading total to 12.
--QB Brandon Weeden started three games. The Browns lost them all.
--LB Jabaal Sheard is expected to increase his practice time this week, Coach Rob Chudzinski said Monday. Sheard missed three games with a knee injury.
REPORT CARD VS. LIONS
PASSING OFFENSE: D -- Brandon Weeden's numbers were not horrible - 25 of 43 for 292 yards with two touchdowns. He threw two interceptions and was sacked twice. His second interception, a weak back-handed flip with 4:36 to play, was the critical play in the game. He threw it with the Browns trailing, 24-17, while trying to avoid a sack. Afterward he called it a "bonehead" play. On the brighter side, Josh Gordon again proved how valuable he is with seven catches for 126 yards.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- The Browns were successful when they ran. The problem was they abandoned the run when behind by only a touchdown in the second half. Travis Benjamin used his speed on an end around, running right to left, for a 45-yard gain to set up the Browns' first touchdown. The Lions had been giving up an average of 5.3 yards a carry. Willis McGahee had only 10 carries a week after carrying 26 times against the Bills. McGahee gained 37 yards vs. the Lions.
RUSH DEFENSE: C -- The Browns still have not allowed an individual to rush for 100 yards this season, but for the second straight week they allowed a long run - a 39-yard gallop by Reggie Bush on a run over left guard. Last week they have up a 54-yard touchdown run by the Bills C.J. Spiller. Bush did not have to break tackles to get into the clear. He found running room through the gaps in the Browns defense.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Punt returner Travis Benjamin had nowhere to run against the Lions excellent punt coverage unit, ranked third in the league. Benjamin's final line shows three returns for minus 10 yards. Browns punter Spencer Lanning was steady again, punting six times for a 43.7 average. The Browns still lack a dynamic kick returner; Greg Little returned one kick for 21 yards. Billy Cundiff hit his only field goal attempt - a 40-yarder with eight seconds left in the first half.
COACHING: C- -- It isn't offensive coordinator Norv Turner's fault Weeden foolishly flipped the ball instead of taking a sack late in the game, but he calls the plays and called only five running plays in the second half. The gap in points wasn't seven until 6:04 remained. The Browns did not trail by the final score of 31-17 until 2:01 remained.