Browns’ drops, turnovers lead to loss to Texans

Published 12:16 pm Monday, November 24, 2008

Disgusted by another Sunday watching dropped passes, penalties, turnovers and a defenseless defense, some Cleveland fans in the emptying stadium began to chant.

‘‘Cow-her, Cow-her,’’ they yelled in the final minutes, calling for the former Pittsburgh Steelers coach, once an enemy and now viewed as a potential savior.

With this season in shambles, the Browns may soon start rebuilding for the next one.

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Picked apart by Houston quarterback Sage Rosenfels and unable to do anything once they had the ball, the Browns were humiliated in a 16-6 loss to the Texans, who snapped an eight-game road losing streak and forced Cleveland coach Romeo Crennel to bench quarterback Brady Quinn.

Playing with a broken right index finger on his throwing hand, Quinn, who was recently given the starting job over inconsistent Pro Bowler Derek Anderson, was pulled late in the third quarter after he tried to force a pass to Braylon Edwards that was intercepted by Houston’s Fred Bennett at the Texans’ 7.

It was Quinn’s second pick of the quarter, and it was enough for Crennel to sit the golden boy and turn to Anderson for a spark.

The sudden switch surprised Quinn.

‘‘I didn’t really have any inclination I was on such a short leash,’’ said Quinn, who was 8-of 18-for 94 yards in his third career start. ‘‘The fourth quarter is where games are won or lost. I just wish I would’ve been able to be in there to have a chance.’’

Crennel said Quinn’s starting job is secure, but his decision to yank him was curious because the Browns are eager to see if Quinn, a first-round draft choice in 2007, can indeed develop into their franchise QB.

‘‘Brady has not lost his job,’’ said Crennel. ‘‘He’s still the quarterback and he’s going to play.’’

Rosenfels passed for 275 yards with a 17-yard TD pass to Kevin Walter, and Kris Brown kicked three field goals as the Texans (4-7) got their first road win since Nov. 4, 2007, at Oakland. All it took was a weekend in chilly Cleveland and a date with the bumbling, stumbling Browns, who committed five turnovers, for Houston to have a road trip to remember.

‘‘We played a team game,’’ said Rosenfels, who finished 24 of 32 and survived two interceptions in the second half. ‘‘Our defense played great. Our offense did a lot of good things. We threw the ball effectively. We ran the ball pretty good. I made two mistakes I wish I could have back, but our defense bailed us out.’’

Andre Johnson had 10 catches for 116 yards as the Texans also ended a three-game losing streak.

It has gone from bad to worse for the Browns (4-7), who fell to 1-5 at home to cap a turbulent week that included general manager Phil Savage’s apology for sending a fan a profane e-mail following Monday night’s win over Buffalo. Cleveland has lost three straight at home and the club’s loyal fans, who have endured a decade of dysfunction, fled by the tens of thousands in the final minutes.

Afterward, players seemed to be confused by Crennel’s decision to pull Quinn and questioned play calling for an offense that has sputtered all season.

‘‘I don’t know what happened,’’ said running back Jamal Lewis, who got just 10 carries and picked up 58 yards. ‘‘I thought we ran the ball well, when we ran it. I don’t know. I guess I’ll have to go watch the film and see what the coaches saw upstairs.’’

From the sideline, Crennel admitted he doesn’t know which Browns team will show up. Now 24-35 since coming to Cleveland in 2005, he’s mystified by his team’s inability to play consistently.

‘‘You don’t know exactly what you’re going to get, and how hard they’re going to try, and how hard they’re going to execute or if they’re going to do the right things,’’ he said. ‘‘You get the feeling after you go and win at Buffalo that they’ll do enough to help you win at home and do what they need to do, but we didn’t do it, for whatever reason.

‘‘If I knew the answer, I would definitely get it fixed.’’

Crennel hasn’t been able to fix wide receiver Braylon Edwards, who had three more drops, including a TD from Anderson in the fourth quarter that would have pulled the Browns within three.

Edwards, who has declined interviews after bad games this season, stood at his locker and was accountable.

‘‘That’s a catch that I’ve got to make for my team,’’ Edwards said. ‘‘They’re depending on me to make that play. I don’t know what it is, but I’ve got to go somewhere to get my head together. I work hard. I know what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m healthy. I have no excuse. I just have to make the play.

‘‘All I know last year I was one guy and this year I’m a different guy.’’

Notes: Brown kicked two 32-yard field goals, one from 38 yards and had another blocked by Browns NT Shaun Rogers, his 13th career blocked kick. … Browns K Phil Dawson was wide left with a 39-yarder in the fourth quarter, his first miss in 16 attempts. … Texans RB Ahman Green injured his left knee in the third quarter and could be out a few weeks. … Johnson went over 1,000 yards receiving for the third time in his career. He has 1,071 yards on 81 catches.