Browns must find end zone

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 25, 2003

BEREA, Ohio - Moments after Sunday's game, an apparently inebriated Browns fan ran onto the field only to be tackled by security personnel a few yards from the goal line.

Just like his favorite team.

Cleveland failed to score a touchdown despite four drives inside Pittsburgh's 20-yard line, and the Browns committed five turnovers in a 13-6 loss that put their playoff hopes in serious jeopardy.

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With five games left, the Browns (4-7) are two games behind AFC North co-leaders Baltimore (6-5) and Cincinnati (6-5) and tied with the Steelers, who they beat everywhere but on the scoreboard.

However, the Browns haven't given up hope. As crazy as this season has been, the only fitting finish would be if they somehow got back to the postseason.

"We're going to keep fighting," said running back James Jackson, who rushed for 94 yards but had two costly fumbles. "We might have to win all our games, and hopefully we'll get some help."

Cleveland could have used some assistance inside the "red zone" on Sunday. They moved up and down the field inside the 20s, but once they got close it was as if some invisible barrier was helping the Steelers keep them out.

On their first two possessions of the third quarter, the Browns had first-and-goal at the 6-yard line but didn't get any points. But it's not for any lack of effort.

"We tried a variety of different things," coach Butch Davis said. "We tried play-actions. We tried running it in. We got it down first-and-goal. Before we tried spreading them out, we ran it down to the 1-yard line."

Jackson got stopped cold by linebacker Kendrell Bell on two straight running plays before the Browns tried a double-reverse on fourth down to wide receiver Dennis Northcutt, who got tackled by safety Chad Scott inches from the goal line.

Davis didn't regret trying the gadget play in that situation. He said the Steelers did a nice job of anticipating and defending it.

"On fourth down, you're searching for a play that might work and might surprise them," he said. "In hindsight and retrospect, if one guy on their defense does what we thought he was going to do, Dennis probably walks in."

After forcing a punt _ Pittsburgh had seven three-and-outs _ the Browns were back at the Steelers' 6 again, but quarterback Kelly Holcomb forced a pass intended for Andre' Davis into double coverage. It was picked off in the end zone, ending Cleveland's last scoring chance.

Andre' Davis said the pick was his fault, not Holcomb's.

"We weren't on the same page," the second-year wideout said. "I should have been in one place and I was in another."

It was the second time in four games and third time this season the Browns have failed to score a TD. Cleveland lost its season opener 9-6, and was beaten 9-3 at New England on Oct. 26.

Davis is frustrated by his team's inability to punch it into the end zone.

"You'd love to be able to say you're going to draw a line in the sand and knock it in," the coach said. "You get down there and you have to come away with touchdowns. You can't trade threes or come away with no points. That was the story."

The Browns are learning the hard way that they have to make the most of their scoring chances. Five of their losses have been by seven points or fewer.

However, Davis said his players remain upbeat that they can still make a playoff push.

"Guys know we're running out of time," he said. "You can't afford to give very many more games away. There are still five games left. We have a lot to play for."