- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 14, 2011

BEREA, OHIO (AP) - There were 21 incompletions, some of them Colt McCoy’s fault. There was the first pass he caught after it was swatted in his face, and the final one that slipped out of his hand and was intercepted. There was also the one he threw in a panic toward center Alex Mack.

McCoy made mistakes, lots of them in Cleveland’s season opener. Only one thing, though, ticked him off.

“Losing,” he said.

He’s not used to it.

The Browns’ second-year quarterback ended his stellar career at Texas as the winningest quarterback in college history. The kid groomed to be a quarterback from almost the time he could walk, the one who has a book out called “Growing Up Colt,” is a Longhorns legend.

He’s 2-7 as an NFL starter.

On Sunday, McCoy lost his sixth straight start as the Browns were beaten 27-17 by the Cincinnati Bengals, who caught Cleveland’s defense napping with a quick-snap touchdown in the fourth quarter on a play you’d expect to see on a schoolyard playground, not in a 70,000-seat stadium.

The loss was shocking and disturbing for the Browns, who were hoping to begin first-year coach Pat Shurmur’s era on a positive note. Instead, it was mostly sour. The Browns committed 11 penalties, didn’t execute with the lead and failed to put away a Bengals team forced to start a rookie quarterback and then switch to his backup.

So winnable. So disappointing.

“Across the board, we’ve obviously got a lot of room for improvement,” McCoy said. “We learned a lot from that first game.”

McCoy’s first outing of 2011 was uneven _ at best. He completed just 19 of 40 passes for 213 yards, hardly the kind of numbers he or the Browns envisioned posting in their new West Coast offense Shurmur imported from St. Louis. McCoy wasn’t as accurate as needed, and he didn’t get much help as Cleveland’s receivers failed to get open.

McCoy accepted his share of the blame, and there was plenty to go around.

“I’ve got to make better throws, obviously,” he said. “I can play better. I think if you asked the receivers, each one of them will tell you they can play a lot better. There’s a lot of room for improvement. A lot of work to do. We put last week behind us and we know we can play better than that.”

The Browns will have to this Sunday in Indianapolis against Colts team determined to bounce back from their own hideous debut in Houston, a 34-7 loss to the Texans.

After McCoy played so soundly in eight starts as a rookie, the Browns hoped he would build off that success and become the quarterback to finally lead them from a darkened decade-plus of losing. McCoy may still be the answer for Cleveland, but his performance in Week 1 has cast some doubt on whether he’s ready to do it now.

Shurmur referred to McCoy’s “general efficiency” when specifically what his young QB could do better.

McCoy didn’t disagree.

Clinging to a 17-13 lead in the fourth quarter, the Browns had the ball with 10:40 left and a chance to put the Bengals in a deeper hole. But after gaining 33 yards on four plays, Cleveland lost 10 yards on three snaps, a sequence made worse when Richmond McGee followed with a 28-yard punt.

Moments later, the Bengals outfoxed the Browns with their hurry-up score. Still, Cleveland had time and got the ball back.

McCoy couldn’t move it.

The Browns were forced to punt, turned it over on downs and their last hopes for a comeback ended when the ball slid out of McCoy’s grip like a bar of soap and was picked off.

McCoy was brutal down the stretch. He went 4 of 12 for 22 yards and the interception on Cleveland’s last three possessions.

“I can be a lot more efficient,” McCoy said. “I think collectively as a group we can be more efficient. The thing we’ve harped on in meetings is you can’t play behind the chains on first and second down and expect to convert third and long. Not even good teams do that.

“One yard is better than a three-yard loss. If you can play second-and-5, third-and-5 or less, then I think you give yourself an opportunity to stay on the field and score some points.”

In a short time, McCoy has learned its much tougher to beat Pittsburgh or Baltimore than Texas A&M or Baylor.

He’s accepted failure is part of the deal in the NFL. But the good ones don’t make it a habit.

“You’re never going to play a perfect game,” he said. “There’s always going to be mistakes. The big thing for us is nobody’s in a panic mode. We played a bad game. We didn’t play as well as we wanted to, and we know we can play better. We’ll be OK.”

___

Notes: Browns WR Mohamed Massaquoi, who missed the entire preseason with a foot injury, was limited in practice by a hamstring injury. Massaquoi caught three passes last week, including a 56-yarder. Hamstring injuries have plagued the Browns since camp opened. … Starting RT Tony Pashos sat out practice but said his injured left ankle has improved. Pashos missed the opener, and until he’s ready, Oneil Cousins and Artis Hicks will rotate on the right side. … New punter Brad Maynard was on his way to a golf course in Illinois when the Browns called. “I shouldn’t say it out loud, but I still played,” said Maynard, signed on Tuesday when the Browns placed Richmond McGee on injured reserve. … Shurmur doesn’t regret not disclosing that McGee suffered a back injury in pregame warmups. Agent David Canter said McGee has a herniated disk. “There are a lot of guys that play in games that may not feel perfect and then go and play,” Shurmur said. “When you lose a game, then blame gets assigned.”

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