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5 Observations: Browns run game hampered by 'a lot of little things'

The film has been digested on a busy Monday inside the Cleveland Browns practice facility. Understandably, It wasn't the easiest to stomach for all three phases of the team, but it was an important step toward rebounding next week at San Diego.

"I spoke to the team about it today. We're just not that team that's going to be at the opposite extremes where we don't play well then we rally back and then play well. As a result of that we take a step backward," Browns coach Mike Pettine said. "The psyche of a football team cannot be fragile and that's something we need to work on."

Here were some of the highlights from media sessions with Pettine, Josh McCown and Joe Thomas.

1) Identifying the run game issues

Pettine said "a lot of little things" contributed to the Browns rushing for just 39 yards -- their lowest total since last year's game against the Raiders. He highlighted one frustrating play, in particular, saying Isaiah Crowell would have gone in the end zone "standing up" on a third-and-goal carry from the 1-yard line if he stayed to the side of fullback Malcolm Johnson rather than plunge toward a sea of Raiders defenders in the middle of the line.

Thomas said everyone is responsible when the team doesn't score on multiple tries from the 1-yard line.

"When you are on the 1-yard line, you have to score touchdowns. That is the bottom line in this business," Thomas said. "It is about touchdown percentage when you are in the red zone. The closer you are, the more you need to get a touchdown. Obviously, we needed a touchdown right there."

One week after they ran 30 times for 116 yards against the Titans, the Browns attempted 14 rushing plays with only three carries in the second half, when they were behind by multiple scores the majority of the time. Take away Crowell's 17-yard run in the second quarter, and Cleveland had just 22 yards on the other 13 attempts.

Pettine said it was far too early to deviate from the Browns' offseason plans to have an offense that runs the ball well while relying on a defense that stops it.

"We are capable of executing that plan and we are not going to deviate from it or panic from it. We need to play better. We need to execute," Pettine said. "If you want to look at the biggest reasons why we have lost two of three games, it is exactly what you said. We didn't run the ball well enough and we didn't defend the run well enough."

2) Injury breakdown: Who's in, who's out?

McCown's throwing hand was scraped and swollen Monday, but the veteran quarterback said it wouldn't keep him off the field when the Browns return to practice Wednesday.

McCown said he wasn't sure when the injury occurred, but called it minor on multiple occasions as he stood by his locker. He noticed it during the second half as he looked over photographs of the previous series but said it had zero effect on his 28-of-49, 341-yard performance against the Raiders.

"I made throws up until that point, too," McCown said. "So I don't think it did."

Pettine wasn't concerned, either, as he said just one of the injuries incurred Sunday was significant enough to keep a major contributor off the field.

Linebacker Craig Robertson will "take some time" with an ankle injury. That will mean more defensive snaps for special teams ace Tank Carder, who will help spell Karlos Dansby and Christian Kirksey at inside linebacker.

Defensive back Joe Haden (ribs) and Tashaun Gipson (groin) are day to day, Pettine said. Defensive back K'Waun Williams remains in the league's concussion protocol.

Defensive lineman Desmond Bryant (shoulder) and linebacker Scott Solomon (ankle) are close to returning, Pettine said. Bryant, who missed his first game of the season Sunday, is the likelier of the two to be ready for Sunday's game at San Diego.

Running back Robert Turbin is making good progress in his recovery from an ankle injury and could be back in a couple of weeks, Pettine said.

3) Monday Morning Quarterbacking the final play

Hindsight is 20-20. Monday Morning Quarterback. You name it. Decisions are always easier to make 24 hours later rather than in the heat of the moment.

Would McCown like his final throw of Sunday's game back? Of course. But does he question the decision to go to Travis Benjamin down the sidelines instead of Gary Barnidge or Duke Johnson on shorter passes? That's where McCown, who was ultimately intercepted by veteran safety Charles Woodson, is a little more hesitant to second-guess.

"The location of the throw was not where I wanted it. It was not the type of throw I wanted to make," McCown said. "I felt like with everything I did on the play – my intention was to hold him and do what we did was good – it was just getting enough on the ball. That is the main thing. That being said, he made an excellent play on the ball. To catch it and keep his feet inbounds was an excellent play.

"Had I been able to throw the ball the way I wanted to throw it, 'yeah, I am OK with it.' Could we have checked it down and got some more yards that way? Yes, absolutely. That is hindsight. You never want to turn the ball over. That is for sure."

4) Monday Morning QB, Part 2

Pettine said the plan to blitz Oakland punter Marquette King with an onslaught of rushers during Sunday's second quarter "backfired."

Barkevious Mingo was flagged for roughing the kicker, but it could have been easily distributed to a handful of other Browns, who arrived one second too late and ultimately extended an Oakland possession that ended with a touchdown.

The plan to rush the punter was drawn up during the week, Pettine said.

"We gave a look that we had constantly been in return mode and just wanted to change it up and see if we could hit them with the block," Pettine said. "We chose to be aggressive and it didn't work out."

5) Singling out a positive or two

Asked to identify a few of the Browns who played well Sunday, Pettine promptly mentioned two of his defensive starters, rookie nose tackle Danny Shelton and defensive back Tramon Williams.

"Danny Shelton continues to play at a very high level. He was impressive," Pettine said. "Tramon has been very consistent. He gives up some throws every now and again but it's rarely for a big one."

On offense, Pettine said he liked some of the things he saw from two rookies, fullback Malcolm Johnson and running back Duke Johnson Jr. He also highlighted Barnidge, who had the best game of his career with six receptions, 105 yards and a touchdown, and Brian Hartline, who rebounded from a zero-catch performance against Tennessee with five catches for 96 yards.

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