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Browns sticking with Cody Kessler, but needed a 'spark' in Baltimore

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BALTIMORE —** Hue Jackson saw an opportunity to jumpstart his offense, so the Browns head coach elected to change quarterbacks midway through a 28-7 loss to the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.

In front of a hostile crowd and on three days of rest, the Browns needed something to counter against a Baltimore offense that started to find its footing in the second half. So they spliced the veteran Josh McCown in place of the rookie Cody Kessler to help give Cleveland its best shot at victory.

And while the Browns — who dropped to 0-10 following the loss and finished with just 144 total yards against a tough Baltimore defense — didn't see matters improve, Jackson stood by the team's decision, saying "we needed a spark."

"I didn't think we were doing some things even in the first half that I thought we could do. Nothing against Cody, I think it's tough when you're a young player, and you come in, and you played the week before, and you're playing again on Thursday," Jackson said postgame.

"I know I made the statement before – I'm not playing musical chairs. I wasn't playing musical chairs today, but I was trying to give our offense a chance to function at a faster rate and do some different things. That's a decision I thought I needed to make, and I made it. I don't regret it at all."

Jackson was referencing a comment made earlier in the week the Browns wouldn't "play musical chairs" with both Kessler and McCown healthy. Instead, he said they would stick behind Kessler — who's been steady and showed promise in seven starts — for the foreseeable future.

"Cody is still the quarterback. I took Cody out of the game because I wanted a spark," Jackson said. "Like I said, a young player playing a couple days and all of a sudden I think it was a little bit different and difficult, so I wanted to try the veteran. That's what I did, and it's nothing more to it."

Jackson, who said Kessler wasn't doing "some things that normally he does real well," also made it clear he thinks the first-year player from USC will bounce back.

"I'm not worried about his confidence. I know Cody very well, and Cody totally understands. I think Cody's fine. I'm not worried about that, and I don't think he's worried about his confidence. I think at the time, we weren't playing as well as we needed to," he said.

"Those things happen with a young player. It's just part of it. It's a lot of pressure and stress playing on Thursday night in front of everybody, and to me, that's a tough spot to be in for a team that hasn't been playing well. So, I made a decision to put the veteran in there, and that's what we did."

Kessler finished with 91 yards and a touchdown — a 25-yard throw to fellow rookie tight end Seth DeValve that gave the Browns its first and only lead of the game.

"I wanted to stay in and compete, everybody does, but I'm a team player and I want to do what's best for the team," he said. "I need to be more efficient and I need to make better reads. We need to do better on third down and in the red zone."

McCown, who made his third appearance this season and second against Baltimore, totaled 59 yards and a pair of late interceptions.

"You've just got to be ready and do the job when you get into the game," McCown said. "I wanted to help the offense get a spark, but we had some bad breaks."

Jackson, though, took ownership of Thursday night, saying it was a "tough spot" for McCown, who has started two games this season.

"I think it's a tough spot for all these guys. I think they're battling as hard as they can," he said. "So again, the finger points at me. I don't think it points at them. These are my choices, my decisions. How we got about things on offense, we've got to get better."​

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