BEREA: Coach Pat Shurmur continued to shrug off criticism Monday for not unleashing rookie running back Trent Richardson on a play that led to the Browns’ collapse against the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
On third-and-1 from the Giants’ 25-yard line, Shurmur elected to pass after Richardson was stuffed for a 2-yard loss on third-and-1 from the Giants’ 12 during the Browns’ previous drive. Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden’s pass sailed high and behind rookie wide receiver Josh Gordon, allowing Giants strong safety Stevie Brown to intercept it with a little less than four minutes left in the second quarter.
The turnover sparked the Giants’ 17-point rally in the final 2 minutes, 52 seconds of the first half. The Browns (0-5) never fully recovered and lost 41-27 on Sunday after squandering leads of 14-0 and 17-7.
“I want us to execute the play we call better, and then we’re always looking at better ways to do things,” said Shurmur, whose offense has converted 18-of-66 third downs (27.3 percent) this season. “I’ll let you guys second guess it, and we’ll work on getting everything better.”
After the game, Richardson defended Shurmur’s choice to keep him on the sideline during the pivotal play. Chris Ogbonnaya, who has served as the Browns’ third-down running back for the majority of this season, was on the field when Weeden threw the interception.
“If you’re an athlete and you’re a competitor and you’re a man, of course, you want the ball,” said Richardson, the third overall pick in this year’s draft. “But you can’t have the ball each play. We got to do different stuff. On that play, they might’ve been trying to pressure up on the run a little bit more. Coach made the right decision.”
But Richardson has scored five touchdowns (four rushing and one receiving) in as many games.
“It would make sense to keep Trent on the field the whole game, right?” Shurmur said. “Would you agree? Keep him on the field the whole game if he can handle it. And at some point, he will be able to.
“I’m not saying that [he can’t handle it now], but I think it’s important that there are other guys that play. All right? I think it’s important. I don’t think you see any running back in the NFL play every single snap.”
Plus, Shurmur said Richardson missed an opportunity to gain a first down on the previous third-and-1.
“We ran a lead play that I think they’ll all watch it and see how we could’ve gotten at least a yard,” Shurmur said.
The Browns also failed to capitalize the play before Richardson was stuffed.
On second-and-1 from the Giants’ 12, Gordon ran a slant route and dropped a pass that could have resulted in a touchdown, Shurmur said.
“I think the throw could have been a little better and then we need to catch that ball,” he said.
Starting middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson attended meetings at the team’s training facility Monday, less than 24 hours after he suffered what Shurmur termed a concussion.
“He’s the biggest part of our team on the defensive side,” rookie linebacker James-Michael Johnson said of Jackson. “I think he’ll be fine, though. He looked good today.”
Shurmur declined to provide an update about starting defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin (lower leg). Rubin was hurt late in the game Sunday.
Shurmur said tight end Alex Smith, who hasn’t practiced or played since suffering a concussion Sept. 16 against the Cincinnati Bengals, has been spending time at the team’s headquarters. Shurmur said he spoke to Smith “at length” Monday.
Johnson made his NFL regular-season debut Sunday after sitting out the first four games with a ribs/oblique injury. Johnson appeared in 17 special-teams plays.
“I was very happy I was finally playing,” said Johnson, a fourth-round pick in this year’s draft. “I was tired of sitting out. It wasn’t fun. But I’m glad I’m back and I can actually play now.”
Move on horizon
The Browns have a roster exemption for cornerback Joe Haden, whose four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs ended Monday.
Shurmur said he would re-insert Haden into the lineup Sunday against the Bengals (3-2), so the Browns have until 4 p.m. Saturday to put Haden back on their 53-man roster and make a corresponding move.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com.browns.abjNate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com.browns.abj.