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Browns QB McCown set to start Thursday

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The Sports Xchange

BEREA, Ohio – Unless he has a setback over the next three days, Cleveland Browns quarterback Josh McCown, sore but structurally sound, will start on Thursday night against the Bengals in Cincinnati.

The 36-year-old quarterback was pounded by the Arizona Cardinals in the second half Sunday in a 34-20 loss. His ribs are causing more pain than his shoulder, but he was allowed to continue after being flattened by Cardinals linebacker Kevin Minter early in the third quarter.

Given the short week before facing the Bengals, head coach Mike Pettine has no plans to switch to Johnny Manziel. But even if the game were Sunday, Pettine would stay loyal to McCown because McCown has done nothing to lose the job other than get hurt.

“We’re hopeful that he’ll be able to play,” Pettine said. “If our starter can go, he’ll be the starter.”

McCown passed for 122 yards and three touchdowns in the first half while the Browns build a 20-7 lead on Arizona. He threw for only 89 yards in the second half, although he did not get much support. Brian Hartline, who caught two touchdown passes in the first half, unofficially dropped four passes in the second half.

McCown did not blame Hartline or anyone else for being shutout in the second half. He said if he ever is in too much pain to continue he will take himself out of the game.

“I wouldn’t go out there if I couldn’t do what I felt capable of doing,” McCown said. “I want to be out there with my guys. I didn’t feel like I was hurting enough that it was going to keep me from doing my job so I’m going to stay out there.

“I can’t predict the future, but unless anything changes, in my mind as long as I can wake up the next few days and do everything I feel like I need to do to feel effective, then I’ll be ready (Thursday).”

Left tackle Joe Thomas said the offensive line has to do a better job protecting McCown. McCown was sacked only once but he was hit seven times.

BROWNS REPORT CARD VS. CARINDALS

–PASSING OFFENSE: C Plus. Josh McCown threw three touchdown passes in the first half – two to Brian Hartline and one to tight end Gary Barnidge. The Cardinals made halftime adjustments because they didn’t like the matchups that led to the first-half touchdowns. The Browns had no counter-punch. The offensive line did a poor job protecting McCown for the second straight week.

–RUNNING OFFENSE: F. The Browns have had many disappointing aspects to this season. The running offense has been among the most disappointing. Their longest run against the Cardinals was a 10-yard desperation scramble by McCown. Running backs Isaiah Crowell, Duke Johnson and Robert Turbin totaled 20 yards in 14 carries. Sometimes holes are not available and sometimes the backs miss the holes. The Cardinals did not have to respect the run and that allowed them to tee off on McCown.

–PASS DEFENSE: D. The Browns got lucky in the first half when Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer overthrew three receivers by inches on deep passes. His touch was better in the second half when he threw three touchdown passes. One was 60 yards to Michael Floyd. Palmer had plenty of time to pick his targets because the Browns pass rush was anemic. Palmer threw 38 passes and was sacked once.

–RUN DEFENSE: B minus. The Browns best effort on run defense this season went to waste. They held the Cardinals to a 3.1 average on 38 carries. Chris Johnson’s longest run was just 13 yards, and though he did squeeze out 109 yards it took him 30 carries to get it. A big difference for the Browns was the return of inside linebacker Craig Robertson and safety Tashaun Gipson. Robertson made five tackles.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: C minus. Punt coverage is usually solid, but Patrick Peterson broke a 38-yard return. It was the longest allowed by the Browns this season. Kicker Travis Coons’ perfect season ended when he missed an extra point. Browns punter Andy Lee averaged 49.8 yards a kick, but Peterson’s long return lowered the net to 41.5 yards.

–COACHING: C-minus. Offensive coordinator John DeFilippo gives up too quickly when the run offense struggles. That leads to breakdowns in the pass offense because of protection problems. The Browns are halfway through the season and have only 13 sacks after getting to Palmer only once. If they have 13 in the second half of the season they will finish with five fewer sacks than last year. Scheme or personnel has to change to increase that total.


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