Browns won’t look past Titans
BEREA (AP) — The Browns’ upcoming schedule looks pillowy soft, comfortable. It’s appealing for sure, loaded with games they can — and maybe should — win.
Beginning with Sunday’s game at Tennessee, Cleveland’s next five opponents have a combined 4-16 record, and two of those teams, Oakland and Jacksonville, are winless.
The future can be enticing. Or deceivingly deadly.
Browns coach Mike Pettine has warned his team there are no gimmes in the NFL.
“We can’t think about our schedule or look at our next opponent beyond Tennessee,” Pettine said. “That’s just not how we operate. I think it is a dangerous thing. We can’t afford to look ahead. We’ve got to learn how to win on the road.”
It’s been more than a year since the Browns won a road game. Cleveland has dropped seven straight away from home with its last win coming on Sept. 22 last season, when quarterback Brian Hoyer replaced starter Brandon Weeden and led the Browns to a 31-27 win at Minnesota.
The Browns went 0-6 from there and lost their season opener at Pittsburgh.
During Cleveland’s bye week, Pettine learned of a growing sentiment outside the team’s headquarters that the Browns were heading into a favorable portion of their schedule.
Pettine got that message from Mike Pettine Sr., the Browns’ unofficial team sage, who became a Pennsylvania high school coaching legend by never taking any school for granted.
“My dad does a good job of reminding me of things like this,” said Pettine, who often returned from training camp practices to find a hand-written to-do list from this father lying on his desk. “He gets the pulse of what’s out there and will summarize it for me. As old school as he is, there’s a reason that it’s ‘One game at a time,’ ‘any given Sunday.’ There’s a reason those become cliches. It’s because it’s so true.”
He says because the league has such parity, teams better be prepared to play each week.
When the Browns returned from their bye week, Pettine told his players at a team meeting that the focus this week is on the Titans, only the Titans.
If the players needed any proof, Pettine pointed to this past week’s results when Tampa Bay went into Pittsburgh and stunned the Steelers, while the New York Giants hammered Washington.
“Everybody had written that game off for Tampa that they had no chance,” Pettine said. “Everybody had written off the Giants and look what they did.”
Running back Ben Tate, who could return this week after missing two games with a sprained right knee, said Pettine is right. The fourth-year back has learned that while college teams can maybe get away with looking beyond an inferior opponents, there are no walk-overs in the pros.
“I don’t think that any part of the schedule is favorable,” said Tate, calling such talk a media creation. “Who says the schedule’s favorable? That’s something y’all came up with, huh? We all get paid. We’re all good athletes in this league. If you don’t come to play, you’re going to get beat.”
Pettine seems to have his players’ attention. Several Browns repeated his don’t-look-ahead mantra. Now, they have to make sure they back up their words with actions.
NOTES: DE Desmond Bryant (glute) practiced during the portion open to media members. He was sidelined for Tuesday’s workout. … Pettine said long snapper Christian Yount’s job is in jeopardy after the team signed Charley Hughlett to the practice squad. Pettine said the two will compete during the week. Yount has had one poor snap in each of Cleveland’s games. “We need clarity on that situation,” he said. “Christian is a competitive guy and is very serious about his job. We’re not going to hide from that fact that he’s struggled. He knows he needs to bet better, but at the same time we need to move forward and put the team in the best position to win.”