CLEVELAND - Before the Browns can start thinking about the importance of winning division games, it would help to at least win a game.
AFC North games; in-conference games; NFC games. Whatever. Just win one!
The 0-5 Browns will attempt to end an 11-game losing streak today against the 3-2 Cincinnati Bengals in an AFC North Division game at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Among the Browns' five defeats were division losses to the Bengals and Baltimore Ravens.
If Browns coach Pat Shurmur is feeling pressure, he can expect the heat to turn up a few notches with another loss. James Haslam III will be officially approved as the new owner at an owners' meeting Tuesday in Chicago, which means he can begin making changes.
In an interview last week on the "Fox Business Network," Haslam said that he wouldn't begin making moves until later in the year. Whether late means October, November or December wasn't mentioned.
Shurmur has shown signs of being under pressure. A win today would do volumes to make his life easier.
"You want to win every game, and you would like it to most of the time happen at home so you create that home-field advantage, which is tough for the opponent," Shurmur said. "We get that, and this is a division game, so it's kind of a double-whammy there. Winning a division game at home would be great for our young team."
Shurmur should feel better knowing that rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden and rookie running back Trent Richardson both played well in a 34-27 loss to the Bengals in week two. Weeden was 26 of 37 for 322 yards and two touchdowns. Richardson rushed for 109 yards and one touchdown and caught four passes for 36 yards and a touchdown.
It was a turnaround game for Weeden, who had a disastrous showing a week earlier in the opener against the Philadelphia Eagles. He threw four interceptions and had no touchdown passes, completing 12-of-35 passes for 118 yards.
"I think offensively we made a lot of positive adjustments going forward from that Eagles' game," Weeden said. "I think we took care of the football. We didn't hurt ourselves, and we did some things to move the ball down the field without going backwards.
"That was a game where we kind of found our identity a little bit. I think that's one thing that we kind of gained some confidence from going forward from that game. Hopefully we can repeat it."
Richardson's output in the first game against the Bengals is the only 100-plus yard game of his young NFL career. He expects the Bengals to center their defensive plans on him.
"I'm pretty sure they're going to try to game plan around me, and they're going to try to do everything they can to stop me," Richardson said. "That's when Brandon comes into play. That's when (Greg) G-Little comes into play. That's when a lot of our guys with different talents come into play.
"So when people come in and try to just take me out, we have a lot more talent out there. When everybody's doing his job, I think we can all just increase our play much better."
That's where the Browns have to be careful. Weeden has the second most pass attempts of any quarterback in the league (202), more than doubling the 94 rushing attempts.
"He's second (actually first) in yardage for a rookie too, right?" offensive coordinator Brad Childress said. "Would I like to be able to run it more? Yeah, I would like to be able to run it more, but we put ourselves in some situations where the way that you have to come back is you have to throw the football. He's holding up under it decently."