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Loss hurts for Browns

BEREA, Ohio – Less than a day after losing their season opener on a last-second field goal, the Cleveland Browns lined up Monday morning for their 2001 team picture.

Needless to say, the photographer had trouble eliciting many toothy smiles.

“We let one slip away,” cornerback Daylon McCutcheon said of Cleveland’s 9-6 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. “We definitely should have won that game.”

Should have. Could have. Would have.

That’s actually a big improvement on what the Browns did the past two seasons while going 5-27 under Chris Palmer, but still not what coach Butch Davis has in mind.

The Browns came up short in Davis’ much-anticipated debut, losing on Rian Lindell’s 52-yard field goal with three seconds left. But a few of Cleveland’s players said the Browns lost more than a game.

They missed a big chance to change people’s minds about what kind of season to expect.

“We let one slip, period,” safety Percy Ellsworth said. “But it was more than that. We let one slip as far as getting our fans believing in what we were telling them and what we were showing them all preseason.

“If we had won that game, it would have really helped the momentum. If we had won, it would have been a little easier to go out and practice this week.”

No doubt, the Browns will work a lot on the offense this week as the club prepares to open Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field on Sunday night.

Cleveland’s offense gained just 239 yards and 13 first downs against a Seattle defense missing three of its top four cornerbacks. Quarterback Tim Couch completed 17 of 33 passes for 176 yards, but he couldn’t lead the Browns to a touchdown.

Kicker Phil Dawson accounted for Cleveland’s points with two field goals, but missed another.

Couch didn’t play poorly and blamed some of the problems on first-game jitters.

But the offense didn’t exactly live up to its preseason hype of being innovative, exciting and unpredictable. Instead, it looked a lot like the Browns’ futile offense under Chris Palmer the past two seasons.

“I can see how people could draw a correlation,” Ellsworth said. “I think we have to iron out some things. I’m nowhere near panicky yet. It wasn’t the 100-yard performance we’ve seen. They moved the ball, they just struggled a little bit. I’m not worried yet.”

Twice the Browns got inside the Seahawks’ 20, but came away with just the two field goals.

“Six points isn’t going to win too many football games in the NFL,” wide receiver JaJuan Dawson said. “We have to find ways to get touchdowns, especially when we get into the red zone.”

Dawson was reminded that the Browns only got in there two times.

“We’ve got to find a way to get there, too,” he said.

Perhaps more troubling for Davis was the Browns’ play on special teams.

After tying it 6-6 on Dawson’s 22-yarder with 2:14 left, the Browns failed to properly cover the ensuing kickoff and Charlie Rogers returned it 49 yards.

Rogers caught the kickoff two yards deep in the end zone, broke to his left near the 10 and sprinted up the sideline before getting pushed out of bounds at the 47 by Dawson.

Davis has placed special emphasis on special teams, saying he based some of his final roster cuts on how a player could help covering punts, kickoffs and on returns.

“It’s a disappointment to him, the whole team, the whole organization,” Little said. “He put a lot of emphasis on special teams and it’s too bad we got hurt on that.”

Davis wants to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“We’ve got to find 11 people who will get down there and splatter people,” he said.

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