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Critical stretch ahead for Browns

Posted Oct 27, 2013

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Cleveland Browns play their next three games against AFC North Division competition, including two at FirstEnergy Stadium.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Following Sunday’s 23-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Cleveland Browns quickly turned their focus to what lies ahead rather than dwelling on missed opportunities in the setback.

And what lies in front of the Browns are three straight AFC North Division games, starting with next week’s game matchup against the Baltimore Ravens at FirstEnergy Stadium.

“When I look at this football team, we have a tough schedule, but I think we always have the opportunity to win because of the coaching staff that we have and the players,” quarterback Jason Campbell said. “Even though we’re young, these guys are hungry. They’ll fight with you till the end, and that’s what you like.

“Everything that happens in November and December is all about trying to be in the hunt and playing for something. That’s where we want to get to.”

The Ravens, who defeated the Browns, 14-6, at M&T Bank Stadium back on Sept. 15, come to Cleveland after their annual bye week. They will be the Browns’ final opponent before they get their one-week break from game action.

Following the Ravens game and bye week, the Browns return to the road to play their in-state rival, the Cincinnati Bengals, on Nov 17. Then, they will play their final home game against an AFC North Division team this season when they welcome the Pittsburgh Steelers to FirstEnergy Stadium on Thanksgiving weekend.

“It’s great,” defensive lineman Phil Taylor said of the next month of games. “At the beginning of the season, there were a lot of non-conference games, so this stretch right here is going to determine who’s going to go to the playoffs from this division.

“In our division, everybody’s fighting. There’s no clear-cut winner in our division right now, so we’ve got to go out there and make a push. We know how it’s going to be from the snap. The Ravens, they’re going to come out and play hard. We’re going to play hard, and it’s on our field. We’ve just got to go out there and get it.”

During the work week leading up to the game against the Ravens, Browns coach Rob Chudzinski wants the team to focus on giving a consistent effort and avoiding long stretches where the defense is on the field, as they were for 16 minutes and 16 seconds on the Chiefs’ first three scoring drives Sunday.

“I thought our guys did a great job of fighting all the way till the end and getting to where we were in position a couple times, where we were close,” Chudzinski said. “With one break or one play, we would’ve been able to tie it up or go ahead.

“I think the guys are learning that we need and have to be consistent. We have to be able to play the same way at all times, and when we do, we can play with and go toe-to-toe with anybody in the league. It was a learning experience. We’ll be ready to play Baltimore next week.”

AVOIDING THE SLOW START

The Browns were down by 13 points after the Chiefs’ first three possessions of the game, and then, mounted a furious comeback as they scored 17 of the next 24 points. For Chudzinski, improving on the shortcomings of the first half have already started.

“There were too many big plays that we allowed in the first half,” Chudzinski said. “Our third-down percentages in the first half were not good. In the second half, they were outstanding. We have to keep working on that. I think we did make some adjustments at halftime that helped us. We just can’t get off to the slow start that we had.”

MOVING FORWARD

Browns wide receiver Davone Bess had two key dropped passes, but it was a mishandled punt return that proved most costly for the team in their setback to the Chiefs.

On fourth-and-six from the Kansas City 10-yard line, Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt hit a 41-yard punt that Bess sprinted up the field to return. However, after fielding the ball, Bess lost a handle on it, and turned it over to the Chiefs at Kansas City’s 47.

Subsequently, the Chiefs were able to wear 3:07 off the fourth-quarter clock and put the Browns at their own 16-yard line with 3:55 to play. The Browns were able to move the ball to their 31-yard line, but were unable to make a conversion on fourth-and-seven.

“It was a critical play in the game,” Chudzinski said. “It was a tough play. The kick was short, and looked like it was really falling off. Davone had a long ways to go to catch it and caught it on the run. I don’t think he caught it cleanly and just couldn’t hold on to it.

“Davone is everything you could ask for as a pro. Those are plays he wishes he could have back, and there’s nobody that feels worse than Davone on those plays. You just have to do better the next game.”

INJURY UPDATE

Bess was in the lineup to return the punt because fellow wide receiver Travis Benjamin was injured on a nine-yard run back in the third quarter.

“He sprained his knee,” Chudzinski said of the speedy Benjamin. “We’ll look into it. Obviously, he wasn’t able to return, so we’ll look into it when we get back.”