CLEVELAND — The Browns looked shell-shocked.
Even boisterous tight end Kellen Winslow — who had the team’s top offensive performance with four catches for 83 yards — was subdued and quiet while answering questions after Cleveland’s 34-7 season-opening loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday afternoon.
“It’s a team game and you can’t point any fingers,” Winslow said. “We, as a team, didn’t execute. We had dropped balls, we didn’t protect the quarterbacks sometimes, field position — all three phases we got beat today. So we have to pick it up.”
While the players looked drained while answering endless questions about the first-quarter mistakes, the second-quarter quarterback switch and the game-long futility, they did manage to show some passion when talking about what they expect to see from their team going forward.
“With the history of the Browns the past couple of years, I know what people are going to say and I’m not worried about it,” wide receiver Joe Jurevicius said. “This is a better football team than what people saw today and we will show it. I’ve seen the good, bad and the ugly, and I know this team is going to be good.”
The offense was both bad and ugly during the first quarter Sunday.
A butchered punt attempt gave the Steelers the ball at the Cleveland
22-yard line, a Charlie Frye interception put Pittsburgh at the Browns 17 and Steelers cornerback Bryant McFadden recovered a Jamal Lewis fumble at the Cleveland 40.
All three mistakes led to scores and the Steelers were in control 17-0 before the second quarter even began.
“We made too many mistakes,” said Braylon Edwards, who coughed up a fumble of his own midway through the fourth quarter. “When you make those kind of mistakes, those kind of turnovers, those kind of miscues against a team like the Steelers, it affects you. They won the championship two years ago. They’ve always had consistent defenses that allow them to stay in a game no matter what their offense does.
“We just gave them too much today, and when we tried to pull the string it was too late.”
The Browns’ performance through the first seven drives was so awful — they only managed one first down — that coach Romeo Crennel pulled Frye from the game and replaced him with Derek Anderson midway through the second quarter.
“Charlie is a hard worker and he’s our starting quarterback,” Winslow said. “But we just weren’t playing well as a team so we stuck Derek in there to give us a little spark, and we just didn’t execute.”
Anderson managed to lead the Browns to a third-quarter touchdown, but looked as bad, if not worse, than Frye for the remainder of the game. Crennel declined to say who would be in the starting lineup next Sunday vs. Cincinnati, meaning the quarterback controversy could be back on.
Many players remained diplomatic about the situation. When asked who he thought would start next week, Edwards could only manage an awkward, “I support Charlie and I support D.A. Whoever’s in there, we just have to play for them.”
That wasn’t the case when it came to Jurevicius, who adamantly gave Frye his stamp of approval.
“I told Charlie that he’s my man 100 percent,” Jurevicius said. “I support him regardless of what the situation is — you have to be (behind him). Charlie Frye is a man, he’s a quarterback. You don’t get to this point in your career by being somebody who doesn’t have talent.
“He’s a guy that will go to battle, and I’ll take Charlie Frye on my team any day.”
The Cleveland fans weren’t as supportive. They began to boo after Frye’s interception, and chants of “Brady, Brady” began shortly after. But rookie Brady Quinn was designated as the Browns’ third quarterback, and Crennel said he never had any intention of, “throwing him to the dogs.”
It’ll be cats that the Browns will worry about now, as the team will turn its focus to its Week 2 matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals.
“We’ve heard the saying that this isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon,” Jurevicius said. “We’ve got 15 games to go. (Sunday’s loss) is not something we’re proud of. We are a better football team than that and we will show it next weekend.
“I’d like to think of it as we got the bad one out of our system.”
Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137