Kicking three field goals of at least 50 yards, holding Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones to no yards on punt returns and limiting running back Ray Rice to just 96 yards of total offense earned the Cleveland Browns’ special teams and defensive units credit from coach Pat Shurmur following the team’s film breakdown on Friday morning.
Jones came into Thursday night’s game with a 10.3 yards per return average over six punts through the first three games of the season.
Rice had played eight games against the Browns and rushed for 775 yards and three touchdowns on 149 carries. Thirty of his runs resulted in first downs and he had 18 runs of at least 10 yards. Rice ran for a career-best 204 yards in the Ravens’ 24-10 win over the Browns on Dec. 4, 2011.
“I think the special teams, last night, had a positive contribution to our effort,” Shurmur said. “They had zero return yards from the punt return standpoint. We asked Reggie (Hodges) to put the ball up, which he did and a couple of punts were short, but we wanted the ball up in the air. We wanted to minimize the effect that a great returner had on the game. I think we did that. I was pleased.
“Defensively, when I look at it, we could talk about individual players. I thought our run defense was much improved from the last time we played Baltimore, much improved, and that’s a team concept. That’s a credit to the guys up front and the secondary when they fill their lanes as well.”
While the punt coverage unit and rush defense came up with ways to limit Baltimore’s effectiveness, 14-year kicker
Dawson is now four for four from 50 or more yards and six of six on kicks of at least 40 yards.
“With heavy footballs, a wet environment, old Phil Dawson just keeps going,” Shurmur said. “He’s amazing and he scores. From a special teams standpoint, I thought our coverage units did a great job. I thought the special teams (made) a positive contribution to our effort and they need to continue to be consistent as well as better so that we win our games.”
Despite the fact that veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin caught nine of the 12 passes he was targeted for and turned those receptions into 131 yards, Shurmur felt the secondary did what they could to prevent the long catches.
“Even though we tangled with Anquan Boldin, who had an outstanding night, the guys covering him challenged him,” Shurmur said. “He made some great catches in contested areas; Joe Flacco made some great throws. Our guys battled and we can build on that.”
The Browns converted 20 first downs -- 17 by way of the pass -- and netted 357 yards of total offense in 70 plays on the field.
Rookie running back
“Offensively, there were flashes of good play,” Shurmur said. “I do think that we gave away some gimmes early in the game and when you give away gimmes early in the game where it keeps you from moving the football, what happens is, late in the game, you get a couple scores separating you from a victory. Then, Trent’s not quite as involved. There are certain things that happened and you can point to things that happen at the end of the game that were contributed to by things that happened at the beginning of the game.”
CONTINUING TO PROGRESS
Two weeks after throwing for a Browns rookie record of 322 yards in a 34-27 loss at the Cincinnati Bengals, quarterback
Although he had an interception returned 63 yards for a touchdown by Ravens cornerback Cary Williams, Weeden showed his ability to recover from the mistake by leading two scoring drives in the fourth quarter and got the Browns in the red zone with a chance to tie the game with a touchdown in the final seconds.
“A quarterback needs to battle through the game,” Shurmur said. “I think the quarterback needs to play his way through stretches in the game where he’s not playing at his best. The reality of it was, we had shots at the end zone at the end of the game to tie it and so, those are all good. Now, the challenge for him is to play consistently good throughout and I think that is the challenge; that’s the efficiency, the accuracy throughout. You have to be able to throw the ball in this league.”
‘WINN-ING’ UP FRONT
Browns rookie defensive tackle
“We liked him in college and that’s why we picked him,” Shurmur said. “We felt he could come in and do the things you have to do as a defensive tackle in this league. I think he’s performed well. He’s a starting defensive tackle in the NFL and he’s made some plays and he’s flashed. Like any young player, you want him to continue to play fast and continue to improve.”