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Browns TE Gary Barnidge once again sure-handed in losing effort

SAN DIEGO -- Four games into the 2015 season, and it's already safe to say Gary Barnidge is having a career year.

It's just not something the Browns tight end likes to discuss, especially when it's in the wake of a tough loss like Sunday's against the Chargers.

Barnidge tied his career high in receptions for a second straight week and made the rounds on Vine, Twitter and other social media platforms with a highlight-reel catch that helped the Browns tie the score late in San Diego. His 1-yard touchdown catch with a little more than 2 minutes to play was his second in as many weeks and provided yet another example of his sure hands on a day in which he caught everything that was thrown in his direction.

It's just not of any interest to Barnidge when his accolades occur during a Browns loss.

"I might be getting catches but they don't really matter if we don't win the games," Barnidge said. "Josh is just putting it in the perfect spot."

But without Barnidge's six catches for 75 yards and a touchdown, the Browns might not have been in a position to win the game with a few minutes left on the clock.

Barnidge made all of his catches in the first and fourth quarters and every one of them came on Browns scoring drives. His 15-yarder on third-and-20 early in the fourth quarter came up short of the first down, but it made for a much more manageable 40-yard field goal attempt, which Travis Coons nailed.

That's just not the play you'll be seeing on NFL highlight shows throughout the rest of the season.

With the Browns trailing 27-19 and driving into San Diego territory, quarterback Josh McCown dropped back, withstood some pressure and threw off his back foot in Barnidge's direction. Barnidge leaped to bat the ball with his right hand, juggled it with his left and fell to the turf with the ball clutched between both. Initially ruled an incomplete pass, the play was overturned when replays showed Barnidge's left elbow landed in bounds.

"What I've learned with Gary, and I saw this early in his career at Carolina, if he gets his hands on it, it's probably a catch," McCown said. "You just learn not to bet against him."

Fourteen of Barnidge's 16 catches have come with McCown as the quarterback and he's caught all but five of the balls that have been targeted to him. Their strong connection developed at OTAs and training camp, when Barnidge was the frequent target on intermediate and deeper passes down the middle of the field.

McCown showed that trust when he zinged a quick pass to Barnidge two plays after his diving catch for a 1-yard touchdown.

"If we can gain a step with the motion like Gary did, it's just about completing the ball," McCown said. "I was able to fire one in there and you have to throw it really hard and trust the guy is going to catch it. Obviously, like I said with Gary, you know that is going to be a catch."

Barnidge's 16 receptions are already a career-best for the eighth-year pro. At 235 yards, he ranks seventh among NFL tight ends and is 7 away from his highest single-season total.

Barnidge would rather see that yardage total hold steady while the Browns' win total increases.

"I don't really want to get into that stuff. It doesn't matter," Barnidge said. "None of that matters unless we win. It's tough. It's tough when you have a good game and we don't win."

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