CLEVELAND: Even in a 5-9 season that has had its fair share of tough moments, the Browns haven’t endured much finger-pointing or boiled-over frustrations in the locker room.
But after the Browns’ 38-21 loss to the Washington Redskins on Sunday, rookie running back Trent Richardson wasn’t happy with the play calling from coach Pat Shurmur and offensive coordinator Brad Childress, particularly in the second half, and he let it be known.
“I think we’ve just got a game plan, and the game plan we had at the beginning of the game, I think we should’ve stuck with it,” said Richardson, who had 11 carries for 28 yards (2.5 average) and two touchdowns. “But we didn’t stick with the game plan, and we tried to do some other stuff, and the outcome came in a different way.”
Richardson ran for 24 yards on his first four carries and looked like he might have a strong day. The No. 3 overall pick in this year’s draft went on to only carry the ball twice in the second half, even as rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden threw two interceptions and struggled to find a rhythm. Richardson said it was “shocking” that he only ran the ball twice after halftime.
“I think in the game plan early, we were going to do a lot of inside zone game planning,” he said. “And we were going to just go off a couple of the draws, and we were just going to do some play-action stuff. And when we did do it, it worked. So we got away from it, and the outcome comes as an L. … After the first four runs, I thought it was going to be a good day for the run game. Like I said, we went the other way, and that’s something I can’t control.
“It gets frustrating for a second, but I don’t let it get to me. The game’s much bigger than me. That’s one thing folks don’t realize and one thing that you’ve got to tell your family when you go back home and talk to them. You’ve got to tell them, ‘The game’s much bigger than me.’ Coach [Shurmur] had the game plan. And whatever he planned, they just overcame it. … It’s shocking. But like I said, the game’s much bigger than me. I’ve got to let coach do what he does.”
In the process, Richardson ran for two touchdowns, bringing his total to 11 for the season, which broke Jim Brown’s franchise record for rushing touchdowns by a rookie. In 1957, Brown had nine rushing touchdowns in 12 games.
“It means a lot, but we still lost at the end of the day,” Richardson said. “In the long run, I’m going to sit back and think about it. But right now, I’ve got a 24-hour rule. I’m not down about this game, but I’m very upset about this game. So it really didn’t mean as much without that W.”
Wide receiver Pierre Garcon, a Mount Union product who signed with the Redskins in the offseason after the Browns targeted him in free agency, had a team-high six catches and also recovered a fumble late in the game that could have given the Browns a chance to come back. He also trash talked with a couple of members of the Browns’ defense, particularly cornerback Joe Haden and linebacker D’Qwell Jackson.
“[Garcon] talks too much,” Jackson said. “It’s like, ‘Who are you talking to?’ I’m too old. Hey, I used to do it when I was young. … You just always hear him. He’s fiery, I get it. But I’m not that guy. … I don’t have time for that. Line up at running back, then you can talk to me.”
Haden downplayed the trash talking, which included a 15-yard taunting penalty on Garcon.
“I wasn’t really worried about Garcon,” Haden said. “I mean, I did my thing against him. … But Garcon is a really good receiver and I don’t want to take anything away from him.”
Garcon finished with 65 receiving yards.
“It was just football,” Garcon told reporters after the game. “Those guys [Jackson and Haden] love playing football. They’re passionate about it. They’re the cornerstones of the defense, so they have to bring their emotion. I have to bring my emotions.”
Weeden had four passes batted down or deflected at the line of scrimmage Sunday, which brings his total to an NFL-high 21 this season.
Both he and Shurmur attributed the Browns running a high volume of shallow crossing patterns — only 2 or 3 yards from the line of scrimmage — to seeing so many passes swatted before they ever have a chance of reaching the intended receiver.
“When those defensive lineman are reading me, if they are not going to get home and not get to me … they just kind of stand there and watch my eyes and then stick their arms up,” Weeden said. “So I am trying to throw over those guys, 3 yards down the field and that can be challenging. I’m 6-foot-4 but these other guys are 6-4 and taller and they do a good job of batting them. I’ve never had so many batted balls.”
Shurmur said it’s just a consequence of running the routes that the Browns often call.
“We throw a lot of shallow crossing concepts,” Shurmur said. “There are times when the rush gets stymied, and then they just stop and put their hands up.”
Weeden also rejected the notion that the Browns’ three-game winning streak came about because of a weak schedule.
“We’re in the NFL. We’re not playing in Podunktown and Podunk football,” Weeden said. “There are no bad teams in the NFL. … It’s still the Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s still the Oakland Raiders and it’s still the Kansas City Chiefs. We’ve had injuries and we’ve had bugs and we’ve been able to fight through them at times. I disagree.”
Is this farewell?
The game Sunday might have been the last at Cleveland Browns Stadium for two main-stay members of the team in kicker Phil Dawson and wide receiver and return man Josh Cribbs.
Cribbs had 191 kick-return yards on seven attempts and also took a carry out of the Wildcat formation for a 16-yard gain. Cribbs now has the fifth-most return yards in NFL history (9,913). After the game, he quietly got dressed and declined comment to reporters.
For Dawson, this is the third time he exited the stadium with the possibility that it’ll be his last time in a Browns uniform. He had a quiet day Sunday (no field-goal attempts; three extra points). Dawson reflected on his time in Cleveland and thanked the fans who have supported him since 1999.
“I thought about it today and it was all positive,” Dawson said. “I waved at a few people and nodded my head at a few people. Fans have been unbelievable, overwhelmingly supportive. I did want to take a few moments here and there to let ’em know I love them.”
If this was a home finale for Dawson, who had his family in attendance from Austin, Texas, it was a hard goodbye.
“You kind of have to go down that road if you care about the people, and I care about Cleveland and I want Cleveland to know how I feel about them,’’ Dawson said. …‘‘We don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Bad day for Hodges
Aside from the offense’s struggle to move the ball in the second half, punter Reggie Hodges didn’t do much to help field position. Hodges had punts of 40, 58, 34, 37, 51 and 32 yards. The median average for punters this season is just over 46 yards. Hodges had four punts travel 40 yards or fewer.
Strong safety T.J. Ward left the game in the third quarter with a knee injury, walked into the locker room as the quarter expired and did not return. Defensive end Frostee Rucker also left the game in the fourth quarter with a groin injury and did not return. Shurmur had no updates on either player after the game. … Defensive end Juqua Parker notched his sixth sack of the season, which leads the team. He’s had a sack in each of the past three games. … Defensive end Jabaal Sheard also had a sack, his fifth of the season. … Jackson had a game-high nine tackles on Sunday, which pushes him to more than 100 tackles this season (106). It’s his fifth 100-tackle season of his career. … Cornerback Trevin Wade, free safety Eric Hagg, running back Brandon Jackson, tight end Brad Smelley, fullback Owen Marecic, guard Jarrod Shaw and wide receiver Josh Cooper were inactive for the Browns. … Shurmur ended his postgame news conference by expressing condolences to the families of the victims in the recent Connecticut school shooting.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.