Browns bent, not broken
BEREA, Ohio -- Beaten up and beaten down, the Cleveland Browns haven't quit.
Their embattled coach isn't surprised.
Despite a 1-11 record, mounting injuries and minimal progress in coach Eric Mangini's first season, the Browns showed some grit in Sunday's 30-23 loss to San Diego. Down by 20 to one of the NFL's better teams, Cleveland scored 16 points in the fourth quarter, recovered an onside kick and put a genuine scare into the AFC West-leading Chargers.
Mangini, whose future could hinge on his team's performance over the final five weeks, was proud of his squad's resolve.
"At 27-7, it would have been very easy to kind of let the rest of the game play out," Mangini said Monday. "I never felt that for a second from the guys."
Mangini said Chargers coach Norv Turner approached him on the field and complimented the Browns' gutsy effort. Although San Diego appeared to ease up with a 30-14 lead, Mangini believes the final score had more to do with Cleveland's determination.
"The first thing he (Turner) said was how impressed he was with the way the guys fought, and he wanted me to tell the group that," Mangini said. "He said that we have a tough group of guys, which I agree with, and that was his feedback, so I don't think that when you're a team in San Diego's position and you got a lot of things depending on every single game, you don't let down."
Mangini managed to extract some positives from Cleveland's seventh straight loss and 10th consecutive defeat at home, witnessed by one of the smallest crowds at Browns Stadium in the past 10 years.
He praised rookie receivers Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie, who combined for 12 catches. He liked quarterback Brady Quinn's decision-making and third straight game without an interception. He noted running back Jerome Harrison's improved blocking and felt tight end Evan Moore, signed from the practice squad on Saturday, gave Cleveland's offense a spark.
Mostly, though, Mangini applauded the Browns' fight and willingness to band together in what could wind up as Cleveland's worst season.
"It's a good group of guys that care about what they're doing," he said. "They work hard. I haven't sat back and questioned their work ethic at any point. I don't think it's the way that any of us had wanted it to go. I think they appreciated the progress that they have made in different areas. They care about each other. They care about the team, and I can't imagine them playing any other way."
Mangini has preached unity since taking over in Cleveland. He believes cohesion breeds championships.
The Browns may be a long way from a title, but there is togetherness.
"We all look at each other as brothers," fullback Lawrence Vickers said. "It's a big family-oriented team, and nothing is going to break that up regardless how much people try. That's what players in our position have to do, put our backs against the wall, and let's hold each other's hand and let's get through it. That's how families overcome things. You gotta stick together through whatever."