Special teams cost Browns in loss to Raiders

Published 12:30 am Monday, October 17, 2011

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Breakdowns on special teams had the Cleveland Browns searching for answers, and Josh Cribbs questioning his coach’s decisions to keep him on the sideline on kick coverage.

Cribbs promised to refocus his efforts on special teams coverage — and not offense — after the Oakland Raiders returned a kickoff and faked a field goal for a score to hand Cleveland a 24-17 loss Sunday.

“I’m not being used to the point where I can really help this team,” said Cribbs, upset he had only two catches for 30 yards and was targeted only five times. “I’m a dynamic special teams player. I need to refocus on how I got into the league, playing special teams, making tackles, doing what I do, doing my part.”

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The Browns might need all the help they can get on special teams.

Jacoby Ford returned a kickoff 101 yards and Kevin Boss caught a 35-yard touchdown pass from punter Shane Lechler on a fake field goal, both shifting the momentum to the Raiders in the first game in Oakland since the death of longtime owner Al Davis.

The Browns (2-3) also lost running Peyton Hillis to a left hamstring injury in the first quarter and linebacker Scott Fujita to a concussion in the second half. Hillis, who was hopeful he only pulled a muscle, said he will have an MRI on Monday. Fujita’s status is uncertain.

Colt McCoy completed just 21 of 45 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns, including a 12-yarder to Mohamed Massaquoi that cut it to 24-17 with 1:06 remaining after Raiders coach Hue Jackson bypassed a chip-shot field goal to go for it unsuccessfully on fourth-and-1 from the 5. The Browns recovered the onside kick, but were unable to generate a first down with consecutive incompletions.

“It came pretty difficult for us,” McCoy said. “You talk about a lot of things that kind of kill you. You’d like to get over those and gain some momentum. But today, it was a struggle with things. They’re coming off a win on the road and they’re at home and have some momentum, and we didn’t match that at the beginning of the game.”

While the Browns couldn’t overcome a key offensive injury, the Raiders managed through one.

Quarterback Jason Campbell was knocked out late in the first half with a broken collarbone. Campbell landed hard on his shoulder after being hit at the end of a scramble by Cleveland linebackers Chris Gocong and Fujita.

The Raiders (4-2) offense struggled once Kyle Boller took over for Campbell. But Boller did complete a 27-yard swing pass to Ford that set up Sebastian Janikowski’s 48-yard field goal that made it 17-7 late in the third quarter.

Oakland then took over again at the Cleveland 25 after a botched handoff between McCoy and Montario Hardesty. That’s when Jackson again successfully went to his book of tricks. On fourth down from the 35, Lechler — the holder — threw to a wide-open Boss in the flat and Boss raced to the end zone for the score that made it 24-7.

All of it had Cribbs peeved.

“We lost by a touchdown. The production means special teams will have an impact,” Cribbs said. “We had the momentum of scoring and then they return the kickoff. I know what it does when I run a kickoff back. That changed the momentum.

“My role on offense, when I weigh it to special teams, it’s very insignificant on offense,” Cribbs added. “So I need to refocus more on special teams and not worry about getting the ball on offense. … If they want to give me the ball on offense, then I’ll play offense.”

It was an emotional day at the Coliseum with many old-time Raiders coming back to honor Davis, the man who had been the face of the franchise for nearly a half-century before dying Oct. 8 of an undisclosed illness at age 82.

The most poignant moment came during a halftime ceremony with dozens of former players standing in a circle around the Raiders emblem at midfield. Super Bowl-winning coach John Madden then lit a caldron on the plaza level in the corner of the stadium with the public address announcer saying the fire will “burn forever” for fans to remember Davis.

On a day full of tributes, the one Davis would have appreciated most is the one on the scoreboard as the Raiders beat the Browns to win consecutive games for the first time this season and move two games over .500 for the first time since winning the AFC title in 2002.

That lead proved to be enough for the Raiders, who harassed McCoy and held Cleveland’s running game to 65 yards.

After a pregame video tribute and moment of silence for Davis, the Raiders started fast. They forced a three-and-out to start the game with safety Matt Giordano sacking McCoy with a blitz on third down. Oakland them methodically moved 88 yards in 15 plays, converting four third-down opportunities and scoring on McFadden’s 4-yard run.

The Raiders were moving again when Campbell slid headfirst on a scramble and lost the ball. That led to Cleveland’s first score on McCoy’s 1-yard TD pass to Alex Smith.

Oakland answered with Ford’s 101-yard kickoff return — his fourth TD return in less than two years as a pro.

“Typically, if you have one special teams score, that’s enough to get you nailed,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “And we had two.”