Browns' Shurmur handles heat after loss

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Browns' Shurmur handles heat after loss

BEREA, Ohio (AP) Browns coach Pat Shurmur slipped into his chair behind the microphone. Before beginning his Monday news conference, Shurmur looked at his notes and let out an audible sigh.

``Oh, boy,'' he said.

He knew what was coming.

Questions. Tough ones.

One day after a 25-15 loss to Baltimore, Shurmur was questioned about several decisions, including a critical one in the fourth quarter that backfired Sunday, as the Browns (2-7) lost to their AFC North nemesis for the 10th straight time and headed into their bye week a frustrated, disappointed and even angry team.

With time to reflect on another winnable game the Browns let slip away, Shurmur, who fell to 6-19 in two seasons, acknowledged that there were some things he could have - and maybe should have - done differently.

``There were some decisions, when I look back on them now, of course, that don't work out,'' he said. ``Then I'll say, `Well, you know what? Maybe we should have done something else.' That's what you do on Monday.''

Shurmur's choice not to punt on fourth-and-2 at his own 28-yard line with 3:53 remaining and two timeouts may be the one he probably regrets most.

After the Ravens, who did nothing on offense for more than two quarters, took a 22-15 lead on Joe Flacco's 19-yard TD pass to Torrey Smith and a 2-point conversion, the Browns got the ball at their 20. They gained eight yards on two completions by quarterback Brandon Weeden, who then threw high to wide receiver Greg Little on fourth down.

Baltimore took over and got a 43-yard field goal from Justin Tucker to open a 10-point lead, essentially ending the game with 2:53 left.

Shurmur doesn't regret the decision, but he did admit that he could have sent in a better play selection from the sideline.

``What I would like us to do is execute, give him a better play and make it,'' he said. ``I watched the game last night, the (New York) Giants punted in that situation and never saw the ball again. Being that we did get the ball back, yeah, I would consider doing something different if I can guarantee I'm going to get the ball back.''

The Browns' biggest issue Sunday was their inability to score inside the Ravens' 20-yard line. The red zone was where Cleveland touchdown drives went to die.

Instead of getting any TDs, the Browns had to settle for five field goals by consistent kicker Phil Dawson, who has made 23 straight attempts dating to last season. The one time Cleveland got in the end zone, Weeden's 18-yard TD pass to rookie Josh Gordon was nullified by an illegal formation penalty against running back Chris Ogbonnaya, who lined up wide but was the eighth player on the line of scrimmage.

On Cleveland's next play, Shurmur called a draw for running back Trent Richardson on third down that was stopped for no gain and the Browns settled for Dawson's 41-yard field goal to take a 15-14 lead.

Shurmur said he played it safe in that location on the field to ensure the Browns, who trailed 14-0 in the first quarter, wouldn't waste the scoring chance.

``I did not want a holding call. I did not want a sack. I did not want anything crazy that knocked us out of that situation,'' he said. ``At that point, a field goal puts us ahead. That's why I made that call. Now, if the situation is different, maybe then you take another crack at the end zone.''

There's little doubt the Browns have improved. After being blown out often last season, they've been competitive in every game but don't yet have the wins to show for their progress. They're still making too many mistakes, like the one by Ogbonnaya, who tried to back off the line before the ball was snapped.

It's enough to keep a coach up at night or make his hair grayer.

``That's why I look like I do,'' Shurmur cracked. ``You don't want that to happen. There are not a lot of great answers sometimes for it, other than you get it fixed, so it doesn't happen again. That's where the mental toughness comes in. You've got to find a way to correct it and move on.''

The bye comes at an opportune time for the young Browns, who are mentally and physically worn out and need a break to recharge. After practice on Tuesday, players will be dismissed until next week. Cleveland's coaches, though, will stick around to try and fix several problems, including some confusion in sending in plays.

During Sunday's loss, the Browns were forced to burn three timeouts because they couldn't get plays in on time to Weeden. It's been a recurring issue as Cleveland has struggled substituting personnel and getting off the snap before the play clock expired.

``That's something we're going to talk about,'' Shurmur said. ``We'll make changes and streamline some of things. That's what's nice about the bye week. It's about the Browns. `What can we do better as we move forward?'''

Scoring inside the opponents' 20 will be another priority as the Browns rank 31st overall in red zone efficiency. Weeden, too, has to improve in the fourth quarter as his 63.2 rating in the final period is second-worst in the league. His five interceptions in the fourth lead all QBs.

``We need to improve there,'' Shurmur said.

Most importantly, the Browns need to win.

As one of the team's most respected players, linebacker D'Qwell Jackson is telling his young teammates to keep working. He has seen previous seasons unravel and he won't let that happen again.

``Right now, we got to fight out of this stigma as the same old Browns,'' he said. ``There's no rule, there's no book saying we can't win the rest of our ballgames. It's just a matter of staying the course and not getting your head down.''

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NOTES: Shurmur will ask the NFL for clarification on two penalties against Gordon, one for pass interference and one for unnecessary roughness on a crack-back block. He also wants an explanation on the call against safety T.J. Ward for roughing Flacco, a penalty that helped Baltimore's go-ahead TD drive. ... The Browns will be featured in a series documentary on Travel Channel next month. The series will show how the team coordinates travel on road trips and offer glimpses of game-week preparation.

In latest comeback bid, Ravens TE Dennis Pitta's confidence not a problem

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In latest comeback bid, Ravens TE Dennis Pitta's confidence not a problem

Not everyone close to Dennis Pitta was immediately sold on his second NFL comeback attempt. Will his twice-fractured hip hold up? How much is Pitta risking his long-term health?

Pitta has pondered those questions for months. But after the first week of OTA’s, the Ravens’ 30-year-old tight end remained confident he had made the right decision.

“I had to convince a few people, and I’m thankful for those who have been in my corner all along and had my best interests in mind,” Pitta said. “Like I’ve said before, I know my situation better than anyone else, and I’m confident in the decision I made to come back, and certainly there were people who wanted to make sure that I was confident in that decision. I have a great support team behind me, and we all feel good about this move.”

Pitta first fractured his hip during training camp in 2013, then again on a non-contact play against the Browns in 2014. However, Pitta says he doesn’t think about his right hip when he’s on the field. He’s also not lowering his expectations, despite not playing at all in 2015, and not playing a full season since 2012.

Pitta was one of quarterback Joe Flacco’s favorite targets, catching 61 passes for 669 yards during the 2012 regular season, then adding 14 catches for 163 yards and three touchdowns during the Ravens’ playoff run to a Super Bowl title.

Asked if he could return that level of play, Pitta suggested, “Why not?”

“No, my expectations haven’t changed from four years ago, to two years ago, to now,” Pitta said. “My level of expectation is extremely high going into this year. Like I said, I feel confident in how I can run, how I can move, how I can play and it’s just a matter of getting those reps back to where I’m confident in doing all of that. So, yes, expectations personally are very high.”

Pitta obviously wasn’t ready to end his career. If he is on the 53-man roster Week 1, it will be a terrific comeback story.

Mike Tomlin, Antonio Brown go to Penguins playoff game

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Mike Tomlin, Antonio Brown go to Penguins playoff game

If you didn't the the Pittsburgh Steelers enough already, this ought to help. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and receiver Antonio Brown decided to take in some hockey on Thursday and unfortunately, they were cheering for the local team.

On the one hand, what do you expect? They play for the Pittsburgh Steelers so it's no surprise to see them cheering for the hometown team. On the other hand, the Steelers are the team Ravens fans all love to hate so to see them supporting the chief rivals of the Washington Capitals, that stings.

Just one more reason to hate the Steelers this football season.

RELATED: SEAN PAYTON SAYS RAVENS LOSING WEEK OF OTAS ISN'T THAT BIG OF A DEAL

Sean Payton says Ravens losing week of OTAs isn't that big of a deal

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Sean Payton says Ravens losing week of OTAs isn't that big of a deal

The Ravens forfeited one week of OTAs as part of their punishment for breaking offseason workout rules (the team dressed players in full pads during rookie minicamp, which is a no-go). But don't worry guys, Saints head coach Sean Payton says that's no biggie. 

Of course a few OTA days seem like peanuts to a guy who was suspended for all of 2012, you may be thinking. But hear the man out.  

During a radio interview with PFT Live, Payton was asked about the impact of losing those sessions. 

I don’t think it’s a big deal. The reason I say that is, look, it doesn’t keep the players from lifting and running and so a week of OTAs would be three on-the-field sessions. You don’t want to lose those opportunities and, shoot, one of those opportunities you might have some type of team building experience set up. I think each team does similar things during the OTAs. There’s a lot of offense versus defense. There’s some restrictions regarding one-on-ones but the players are out there in their element, and they’re going though a little bit of a practice format for two hours. So really that equates to about six hours on the field.

Payton explained that the offseason's first phases are valuable because players return to the facility to work out and build camaraderie.

The Ravens may miss out on practice elements, but they're still getting to do what's most important at this early juncture.