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Browns hurt by flags in 23-20 OT loss at Dallas

Associated Press Published: November 18, 2012

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — The Cleveland Browns were already hampered with starting cornerback Joe Haden injured.

All those penalties against the defensive backs who did play certainly didn't help, especially on the drive that allowed the Dallas Cowboys to force overtime.

Safety T.J. Ward was called for unsportsmanlike conduct for a hard hit that knocked a ball loose and one of his teammates out of the game. And Sheldon Brown got a 35-yard pass interference penalty that set up a tying field goal for Dallas, which then won 23-20 in overtime Sunday.

"Either we start slow or finish pretty strong, or we start fast and don't finish," Ward said. "That's kind of been our problem this year. We just have to figure out how to close things out."

The Browns (2-8) have now lost five games by a touchdown or less, this one after building a 13-0 halftime lead.

Buster Skrine, who replaced Haden (abdominal injury) in the lineup, was called for illegal contact on consecutive plays in the second quarter. Skrine then got called for pass interference before Dallas scored a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth period.

Ward, who had a pass interference call against him, initially said the defensive penalties weren't the right calls. Seven were against the secondary.

"Maybe a couple. But not as many as they called. What are you supposed to do when a receiver is pushing you?" Ward said. "I felt like we were playing one-handed out there."

The Browns got the ball back with 5 minutes left in regulation when Frostee Rucker sacked Tony Romo, forcing a fumble that the defensive end recovered at the Cleveland 28. They were stopped on fourth down from the 1 when tight end Jordan Cameron wasn't able to catch the ball in bounds.

But after stopping Dallas on three running plays and using all their timeouts, the Browns got another chance.

Joshua Cribbs had a 21-yard punt return, plus an additional 15 yards tacked on for a questionable call against Dallas (5-5). John Phillips was called for a horse collar though the replay showed he actually grabbed hold of Cribbs' hanging dreadlocks.

Brandon Weeden threw a 17-yard TD pass to Benjamin Watson, putting Cleveland up 20-17 with 1:07 left.

It was then on a pass Romo threw toward Kevin Ogletree that Ward delivered a hit that knocked the ball loose. That also put the receiver and Skrine on the ground and drew a penalty for what officials called a shoulder-to-helmet hit.

Skrine left the game with what coach Pat Shurmur called a concussion, and didn't return.

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