Four Downs: Browns know how they close will determine their season


Andrew Gribble takes you around the locker room in his bi-weekly segment

1. Browns know how they close will determine their season

For diehard NFL fans, there's no better time than 3:45 p.m. on a Sunday.

It's around then when each of the eight or so early games reach the midpoint of their respective fourth quarters. On a normal week, roughly six or so are separated by a touchdown or less. And a couple -- maybe one, maybe as many as three -- start getting a little weird.

What qualifies as weird? Well, the Browns have dipped their toes in it four consecutive weeks now, with one of those games occurring during the late afternoon block.

The NFL is built around parity. "Any Given Sunday" is more than just a movie; it's a cliche that is completely accurate. Any team can beat any other team on any given day and, really, there's no such thing as a stunning upset. It's one of the biggest, if not biggest, differences between the NFL and college football, which dives into a whole different sort of weird when plays like the one that ended Michigan-Michigan State happen.

The weird -- and just the normal, everyday close game -- is more common than the blowout in the NFL. Through six weeks, only two teams -- the Jets and the Cardinals -- have played in just one game that was separated by a single possession at the end. Undefeated Denver has played in five. So have 2-4 San Diego and 1-5 Baltimore. Even the undefeated Patriots, who have been as dominant as any team in the league, have played in three games that ended with a one-possession lead.

The 2-4 Browns, of course, have played in four. They're 1-3 in those games with the last two requiring overtime.

The Browns have either won or been one score away from winning in their last five games. It's what has simultaneously stung the players the most as they look back on the first six weeks, but also gives them bona fide hope there are better results on the horizon over the next 10.

"It's just getting over that hump. I felt like we were there and we were about to get there," veteran cornerback Tramon Williams said. "We played another really good team with experience winning. Those guys know how to win and that's where we're trying to get."

Williams is one of the players in Cleveland's locker room who has experience winning more close games than he does losing them. So is Karlos Dansby, who was one of a number of players in the locker room Monday who was asked how the Browns bounce back from yet another close loss.

His answer was one of the simplest and it embodied "any given Sunday."

"Go out and win. Find a way to win," Dansby said. "We have to dig deep. There is a lot of football left to play. We can turn this thing around."

2. Digging deeper on Sunday's two-point conversion attempt

Browns coach Mike Pettine laid out the reasons Sunday behind going for two with a 20-16 lead after Dansby's interception return for a touchdown. He went a little deeper behind the logistics and play call Monday.

Pettine's initial reaction was to kick the extra point, he said Monday. While the officials reviewed Dansby's touchdown, Pettine and the staff talked through it and opted to go for two. The logistics are a little different after a pick-six because the offense isn't on the field, but the Browns had the players they wanted on the field for their first attempt.

Josh McCown's first pass attempt to Travis Benjamin fell incomplete. An offsides penalty gave Cleveland new life and moved the ball to the 1-yard line. The second attempt had the same result, prompting questions as to why the Browns didn't attempt a run.

Pettine explained why Monday.

"They are a Cover Zero team on two-point plays," Pettine said. "It is difficult to gain a yard when you have a guy running through every gap and a free hitter sitting behind him to scrape to the ball. That is why we decided to go with the play we went with. They defended it well to their credit."

3. Snap count updates

Some interesting nuggets from Sunday's snap counts...

-- After playing 28 snaps against the Ravens, Paul Kruger was back to his regular workload Sunday. He was on the field for 67 of 84 defensive plays.

-- Pierre Desir, who filled in for an injured Joe Haden, played all 84 snaps. So did the entire starting secondary -- Donte Whitner, Jordan Poyer and Williams

-- The ageless one, Dansby, played 82 of 84 snaps.

-- Running back Robert Turbin, in his Browns debut, played 18 snaps. He had 10 carries and was targeted on one pass.

-- Desmond Bryant led the defensive linemen with 58 snaps.

4. Stat of the week

No one in the NFL has more third-down receptions than tight end Gary Barnidge. Thirteen of Barnidge's 27 catches have come on third down.

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