Growing Couch isn't comfy with close loss

Blitzed Browns rookie QB praised by patient Palmer, but loss disappoints both

September 27, 1999|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

Cleveland Browns coach Chris Palmer wasn't surprised that the Ravens were teeing off on rookie quarterback Tim Couch yesterday.

"I think it's like sharks that see blood. They know that they've got a young quarterback and they're coming hard after him," he said.

The Ravens sacked Couch four times and caused a fumble on the Browns' 1-yard line in the second period that set up a touchdown and was the difference in Cleveland's 17-10 loss yesterday.

Palmer, though, was still pleased with the progress made by the quarterback, who was the first player picked in this year's draft.

Although Couch overthrew some receivers, underthrew others, was the victim of some drops and converted just two of 15 third-down attempts, he was intercepted only once while passing for 123 yards.

"I thought he played pretty well for the amount of pressure they put on him," Palmer said. "They knew he was going to play. It wasn't like it was a surprise. He hung in there."

Palmer noted Couch beat the blitz to get off a pass to Kevin Johnson, who was open in the first half for what could have been a touchdown, but just overthrew it by a couple of feet.

"If we start hitting those, that'll slow down the pressure," he said.

Palmer benched veteran Ty Detmer after a 43-0 loss to Pittsburgh in the opener and went to Couch last week in Tennessee. The Browns lost, 26-9, but Palmer never considered going back to Detmer. He's going to be patient as Couch goes through the growing pains of learning his craft.

"It takes time. I think the quarterback like any position is better in the second year and then he's better in the third year," Palmer said.

Couch said he wasn't intimidated by the Ravens' blitz.

"They have a great front seven," he said of the Ravens. "The linebacking corps is very good. So they are playing all over the field. But for the most part, I thought I picked up their blitz."

The Ravens left lanes open in the middle while they were trying to get to Couch and he ran six times for 49 yards, including an 18-yard run. Palmer, though, said he expects Couch to run less as he gains more experience.

Couch took no consolation in the fact the game was close.

"Our defense gave us every chance to win and we didn't take advantage of it. At least we're not getting blown out every week, but moral victories aren't what we were looking for," he said.

Couch said he wasn't affected by all the hype about the first game between the old Cleveland Browns and the new ones.

"I don't think so. I think we just have to win football games. Every loss hurts. We've just got to go out and get a win," he said.

Palmer agreed.

He said, "This is tough. It doesn't have to do anything with management. We prepared just like it was any other game. It has to do with the players in the locker room. Here I am as a coach, I ask them to do something, they go out and do it and it wasn't enough. That's what I feel badly about."

Palmer, who was 4-0 the last two years against the Ravens as the Jacksonville offensive coordinator, thought he had the formula for beating the Ravens.

He said he told the team, "We want you to get off the field on third downs. We want to create turnovers and they did. We have to now make some more plays and hopefully get better."

Palmer may have cost his team a chance for an upset by going conservative on the Browns' second possession when they had a fourth-and-one at the Baltimore 39.

Instead of letting his young team go for it and maybe take an early lead, Palmer decided to punt.

"I thought it was early enough in the game that we wanted to pin them down," he said. "I thought if we could pin them inside the 10 and try to get them to go the distance, I thought we would be better off."

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