ST. LOUIS -- Fumbles and penalties hit the Browns when it hurt most Sunday at Edward Jones Dome.
The Browns fumbled twice in Sunday's first six minutes, again on a pivotal fourth-quarter possession and once more on a play that ended Josh McCown's day in their 24-6 loss to the Rams. Cleveland committed 11 penalties, seven of which coming in the second half, as the Browns tried to claw their way back from a deficit they faced for the vast majority of Sunday's game.
The loss moved Cleveland's record to 2-5. St. Louis is 3-3.
McCown completed 26-of-32 passes for 270 yards and exited in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury. He was sacked four times, fumbled once and hit hard plenty of other times.
Tight end Gary Barnidge led the way for the Browns receiving with six catches for 101 yards.
Rams rookie running back Todd Gurley got off to a slow start but finished strong, running for 128 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries.
The Browns hung within a possession through most of the second and third quarter, but the Rams pulled away with two touchdowns on their next three possessions that were aided heavily by Cleveland penalties and turnovers.
With the Browns trailing 17-6 in the fourth quarter, a promising Cleveland possession ended with a Travis Benjamin fumble inside Rams territory. The speedy receiver caught a 17-yard slant from McCown and was clobbered by two Rams. St. Louis defensive lineman Nick Fairley scooped it up and set up the offense with great field position.
On the ensuing possession, a third-down holding penalty on K'Waun Williams extended a Rams drive that ended with Gurley's second touchdown of the game. The rookie running back scored from 16 yards directly after Williams' penalty to put St. Louis ahead by 18.
McCown's injury occurred with 5:24 to play in the game. William Hayes hit McCown as he tried to throw, and McCown was subsequently slammed to the ground as the ball rolled away to the Rams.
The Browns sliced the Rams' 10-3 halftime lead to four on their first drive of the second half. McCown found Barnidge for 27 yards to kick it off and Robert Turbin ran 22 yards to put Cleveland in Rams territory. Travis Coons finished off the drive with a 44-yard field goal, his 14th in 14 tries to start his rookie season.
St. Louis promptly responded, as two back-to-back long passes down the right sideline helped give St. Louis its first offensive touchdown. The first resulted in a pass interference penalty on Pierre Desir and the second went for 41 yards to Kenny Britt down to the 1-yard line. Gurley punched it in to put St. Louis ahead, 17-6, with 2:14 remaining in the third quarter.
The Browns would have loved to have the first 5 minutes of Sunday's game back, as the offense fumbled twice and essentially spotted the Rams 10 points.
A quick McCown pass to Taylor Gabriel resulted in six the other way on the offense's first possession of the game, as Gabriel took a hit, fumbled and watched Rodney McCleod return it 17 yards for the touchdown.
On the ensuing possession, McCown put the ball on the ground at Cleveland's 32-yard line after he was hit by Hayes. Hayes recovered it on his own and set up the Rams with a short field. The Browns defense limited the damage to force a Greg Zeurlein 39-yard field goal, which put St. Louis ahead, 10-0, less than 9 minutes into the game.
The Browns got on the scoreboard early in the second quarter with a 25-yard Coons field goal. The kick capped a 14-play, 73-yard drive that milked 8:28 off the clock but came up short inside the red zone.
The Browns defense forced their only turnover of the game late in the second quarter, as Donte Whitner stripped St. Louis tight end Jared Cook inside the Browns' 20-yard line to stifle a drive that could have ended with the Rams up by two touchdowns.