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Shurmur: 'We've proven we can finish'

Posted Dec 10, 2012

Browns coach Pat Shurmur has led a young group of players to three consecutive wins, and four victories in their last five home games.

In the first 10 weeks of the season, the Cleveland Browns lost five one-score games. However, since that time, the team has gone on to win three straight contests against the Pittsburgh Steelers (Nov. 25), at the Oakland Raiders (Dec. 2) and home against the Kansas City Chiefs (Dec. 9).

The wins over Pittsburgh, 20-14, and Oakland, 20-17, came by one-score margins.

“We’ve proven that we can finish a ball game,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “How many in the row we can do? We’ll see. We’ve proven that we can find a way to make more plays than the other team and win a game. We didn’t prove that to ourselves when we started 0-5. I knew it was there. It was just a matter of doing it.”

During the three-game winning streak, the Browns were able to respond to adversity and fight their way back into games.

On the Browns’ first possession of the Steelers game, quarterback Brandon Weeden had a pass deflected into the hands of Pittsburgh linebacker Lawrence Timmons. Timmons returned the interception 53 yards for a touchdown and gave the Steelers a 7-0 lead over the Browns. However, the Browns responded by scoring 20 of the game’s final 27 points to seal the victory.

Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles scored an 80-yard touchdown by running through the hole on the right side of his offensive line on the first scrimmage play of the game. For the rest of the game, the Browns held Charles to 85 yards on 17 carries.

“I’ve learned that we can have some extremely bad stuff happen early in the game and fight back from it,” Shurmur said. “We had a pick-six against the Steelers; we had an 80-yard run against the Chiefs and we found a way to come back from that. Those are all things that are necessary if you’re going to build a consistent winner. All the teams in the NFL are good and all the teams battle. Our team finds a way to play hard and give ourselves a chance. Early on, we didn’t do what we had to do to finish. When you start winning games, that means you’re finding a way to finish.”

The Browns have gone through this winning streak with 27 rookies and second-year players currently on the 53-man active roster.

“I think we’ve had 72 starts by rookies; the next highest is 44 and I’m not sure what team that is,” Shurmur said. “That’s good for the future because we’re finally starting to find out how to win football games with these young players. I think that’s good.

“What’s most satisfying for me is to see these guys near the end of the game and then, in the locker room, truly enjoy victory. We, as coaches, know how much these guys put into it and I’m glad that they’re able to experience that. It becomes intoxicating and they want to do it more and more and more. It’s one of those things that drives you.”

MAKING QUICK DECISIONS

Decisions have to be made quickly for a quarterback to move the team up the field.

When a quarterback prepares to pass the football, he has mere seconds to finish his drop, go through his progressions and throw the ball before the oncoming rush of defenders collapses his pocket.

In the win over Kansas City, quarterback Brandon Weeden completed 17 of 30 attempts for 217 yards and was sacked only three times for 19 lost yards. He also rushed for a 15-yard gain on the Browns’ first possession. Forced out of the pocket, Weeden rushed up the middle and slid at the end of the run, taking a divot out of the turf at the 41-yard line.

“Sometimes, a good decision is throwing the ball away. Sometimes, a good decision is scrambling, like he did on the first play of the game,” Shurmur said of Weeden. “That was the hardest, roughest looking slide I’ve ever seen. He took a chunk of turf out of there. I thought they were going to stop the game and bring in a dump truck. Being a baseball player, I thought it would look a little easier.”

LITTLE IMPRESSES

Second-year wide receiver Greg Little caught four of Weeden’s passes and accounted for 69 receiving yards against the Chiefs. He also had a 17-yard rush and got the Browns out of a third-and-nine situation from the Chiefs’ 18-yard line.

“He caught the football well and when you watch the game, he’s a physical guy,” Shurmur said. “He rattles around in there and blocks pretty well. Some of the things he did just playing the game, you grade players on every play and I thought he had a very good game. He had production, which allows me to say it. He did other things when he didn’t have the football that I thought were good.”

SPECIAL TEAMS EFFORTS

The Browns got a 93-yard punt return for a touchdown from Travis Benjamin and three field goals from Phil Dawson, including the 300th of his career, in Sunday’s win. The coverage units allowed five yards on three punt returns and 51 yards on three kickoff returns.

“(Dawson) told me that in every milestone game he’s had, the team hasn’t done so well, but I assured him that it was going to be okay. I’m glad I was right,” Shurmur said. “Then, the punt return by Travis Benjamin was an outstanding effort. When you have a play like that, there are some terrific blocks. Then, Travis had the skill and ability to make it count. Generally speaking, I thought our coverage units were really good. Our special teams, I think, have done an outstanding job this year and we finally marked it with a big touchdown, so that was good.”

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