BEREA - The last thing the Browns need as they limp toward the finish of the season is more bad news.
The 10-4 Baltimore Ravens, who host the 4-10 Browns today at 1 p.m., are coming of an embarrassing performance in a 34-14 loss to the San Diego Chargers. Factor in the need to win to stay ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the race for the AFC North Division title, and it could add up to a perfect storm for the Browns.
One factor Browns coach Pat Shurmur hopes he has in his favor is pride. With two games remaining in the season, players can either be thinking about the offseason or trying to finish strong and create a sense of optimism for next season."
"I think as professionals, whether you're playing or coaching, you put all your effort into winning the next game, and I think our guys did that last week," Shurmur said of the 20-17 overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals last week. "They've done it every week. We just need to play better in some areas and play better throughout the game.
"I don't worry about that with our guys. They've got a great deal of pride in their performance, they've got a strong bond with their teammates who depend on their performance, and I anticipate we're going to go out, fight and scratch to get a victory."
Seneca Wallace will make his second straight start at quarterback in place of the injured Colt McCoy. Wallace moved the offense at times against the Cardinals, but he was unable to get it going late in the fourth quarter and on one overtime possession.
Wallace didn't play when the teams met Dec. 4 in Cleveland, but he has crossed paths with the Ravens during his nine-year career."
"We played them a few times when I was in Seattle, too," Wallace said. "We've got to be efficient on first down. You've got to do your best to keep it manageable on third down and stay out of those third and longs. You know you're going to get those exotic blitzes. That's what they've been known for for years. We've got to make sure we keep the down and distance very manageable."
One thing Wallace has going for him is the veteran presence he brings to the locker room. He's started just 19 games, but his calm demeanor is a plus on and off the field.
"If you're a young guy you're trying to digest what's coming at you," receiver Greg Little said. "When you're older, you've seen everything there is to see. There's nothing new that's going to come to you."
Shurmur feels that McCoy also brought a comfort factor to the huddle, but he admits that having a veteran on the field is an advantage.
"There's a presence that a veteran has, and this being his second game this year I think we're looking for some of the improvements," Shurmur said.
Shurmur believes that Wallace's performance against the Cardinals could lay the groundwork for a good showing today. Wallace completed 18 of 31 passes for 226 yards, including a 76-yard touchdown pass to Little.
"Any player, and you see it quite frequently early in the year, there's a huge improvement from game one and game two, and I'm looking for that," Shurmur said. "He's going to be more comfortable with the speed of the game. He'll be more familiar with the receivers he's throwing to and just generally more comfortable. I'm hoping that will mean he'll play even better."