In an effort to give a raw rookie

By David Carducci Record-Courier staff writer Published:

In an effort to give a raw rookie quarterback "a valuable learning experience," Cleveland Browns coach Chris Palmer decided to give Wynn his first NFL start Sunday in Alltel Stadium.

The experiment was part of the latest embarrassing loss in the Browns' disastrous season.

Under Wynn's leadership, the Browns' offense managed just 53 yards of total offense, two first downs and no points in a 48-0 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The only explanation Palmer could offer for the debacle was that his team was "overmatched."

"There are certain teams we are going to match up well with, and there are certain teams where our deficiencies are going to show up," said Palmer. "We had some deficiencies."

On defense, those deficiencies allowed Jaguars running back Fred Taylor to run wild in rushing for 181 yards on 30 carries, including touchdown runs of 1, 2 and 3 yards.

The Jaguars added an 8-yard touchdown run by quarterback Mark Brunell, a 14-yard touchdown pass from Brunell to Keenan McCardell, a 3-yard scoring run by rookie Shyrone Stith and field goals of 40 and 24 yards by Mike Hollis.

Those scores combined with the 44 unanswered points scored in a loss to Baltimore last week mean the Browns have given up 92 consecutive points in the last two games. The 92 points surrendered in back-to-back defeats are just two shy of the team record of 96 set in losses to the Houston Oilers and Los Angeles Rams in 1990.

The Browns' deficiencies on offense led to a series of even more embarrassing team records.

The passing game netted negative nine yards against the Jaguars, establishing a new team low. The previous low for a Browns' passing attack was 15 yards in a 1954 game in Detroit.

The 48-0 score was the worst shutout loss in team history. The 48-point margin of victory tied the biggest blowout loss in team history. The 12 punts by Chris Gardocki tied the record for the most punts in team history.

"You see those numbers and they just don't look good," said wide receiver Kevin Johnson. "Negative nine yards passing. That doesn't look right. I feel that I am a pretty good receiver in this league, and those numbers are a slap in my face."

Palmer blamed his team's "deficiencies" on the injuries that have ravaged his roster, ending the season for 13 players who have already been placed on the club's injured-reserve list.

"It's not (the players') fault that we have some problems with guys being injured," said Palmer. "All I ask them to do is play hard and give their all, and I think they are trying to do that."

Palmer seemed resigned to the fact that injuries have led to a near impossible situation and forced him to use the season's final games as a learning experience for his younger players. Most of his team, however, refused to use injuries as an excuse for their pitiful play.

"It's bad," said cornerback Corey Fuller. "We can't score any points. We are not playing like we are being coached. We were more disciplined as an expansion team in our first year last year than we are in our second year. A lot of teams hurt with injuries this time of year, but that has nothing to do with the way you come out and play. That's part of the game. You have to play hard, play with some intensity and give yourself a chance. I don't have an answer. I'm running out of answers."

Like the Browns (3-10), the Jaguars have struggled with injuries throughout the year. That is one reason they are 6-7 and on the verge of being eliminated from the playoffs just one year after reaching the AFC Championship Game.

On Sunday, the Jaguars' defense was without starting middle linebacker (Hardy Nickerson) and strongside linebacker (Lonnie Marts). The Jaguars also lost their top cornerback, Fernando Bryant, to a knee injury midway through the first quarter.

As they have been all season long, the Jaguars' offense was without Pro Bowl right tackle Leon Searcy. Unlike the Browns, the Jaguars have found a way to adjust to life without one of their top offensive linemen.

"We have gotten the opportunity to play and communicate together," said Taylor. "(The offensive linemen) have gotten a feel for each other and now I've got a feel for them."

Led by Taylor, the Jaguars outrushed the Browns 244 to 62. Overall, the Jaguars' offense racked up 449 yards total offense and 28 first downs.

Those numbers were a stark contrast to the Browns' offense, which drove to their own 49-yard line on their first possession, then never advanced the ball past their 35 the rest of the game.

Wynn, who completed 5-of-16 passes for 17 yards, was disappointed in his performance in his first start, but determined to learn from the experience.

"Obviously, I didn't play as well as I would have liked to, but I can work on that," said Wynn. "It was rough out there at times. That's part of the game, though. I held the ball too long at times and did some things that didn't help my team. You try to take positives from everything you do. It showed me what I have to work on. I guess I need to read the defense a little better and know who to go to in certain situations."

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