BEREA - The last time the Browns played the Cowboys in Dallas, quarterback Jeff Garcia had a zero passer rating and tight end Kellen Winslow tore apart an ankle trying to recover an onside kick.
Needless to say, the Browns lost, 19-12, in 2004 at the old Cowboys Stadium. Garcia, who was former coach Butch Davis concoction to solve the quarterback problem, was 8 of 27 for 71 yards and three interceptions.
The 2-7 Browns return to Dallas today to play the 4-5 Cowboys at the plush, new Cowboys Stadium. Browns coach Pat Shurmur, who's at the point of desperation in needing wins, will need more than a zero effort from rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, along with a solid defensive effort against a potentially high-powered offense.
There was a re-energized feeling in the locker room this week after players returned from a bye week. Now comes the task of trying to put together a few wins in a stretch run that includes two games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and one against the Denver Broncos.
"(I need) to do my part to help us win some games and play better," Weeden said. "Lost in all this is I'm a rookie playing for the first time. I'm still seeing things for the first time. I'm making mistakes for the first time, and I'm trying to not repeat them.
"I'm not a nine- or 10-year veteran. Some people might lose track of that sometimes. I'm not a moron. I have to play better."
One of the chores on Shurmur's to-do list during the bye week was to assemble the offensive assistant coaches and streamline the play-calling system. The Browns had to waste three timeouts in their last game, against the Baltimore Ravens, because of the inability to get the play into Weeden on time.
The play-calling process starts with Shurmur and offensive coordinator Brad Childress. What happens during those seconds when the play is actually called isn't known for sure.
"I just think we had communication issues, whether it is indecision or whether I wasn't speaking clearly, or Pat wasn't speaking clearly or we were caught on the last play, which you can do sometimes," Childress said. "Sometimes you're irritated about what happened on the last play or what happened officiating-wise. We just talked about the tempo it's got to get in, at what point it's got to get in and how we're going about doing that."
There is also an unsettling issue developing on the defensive side with cornerback Joe Haden, who missed practice Thursday and Friday because of an oblique injury. Haden was expected to travel with the team Saturday. His playing status will be based on a game-time decision.
The loss of Haden would be huge. The Browns lost all four games during his four-game suspension earlier this season for a drug violation. With him they're 2-3.
"Then the next guy will do a terrific job; that's what's going to happen," Shurmur said of possibly being without Haden. "Let's not everybody get worried now. We're going to load up the plane with our guys, go down there and play a football game. I'm excited about the work we put in. I'm excited about the team we're going to take down there, and we're going to make every effort to do what it takes to win the game."
The defense will face a tall order if the good Tony Romo shows up at quarterback for the Cowboys. Romo has been inconsistent. He's completed 66.9 percent of his passes and has thrown for 12 touchdowns, but he's also been intercepted 13 times.
The Cowboys feel they're in position to make a playoff run after last week's 38-23 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
"For us we need to keep that sense of urgency and keep playing good football," Romo said. "We did some good things last week that we can build off."