Lackluster Browns Lose to Oilers : AFC: With rumors regarding team’s move to Baltimore playing a key role, Cleveland is outplayed in 37-10 home loss to Houston.

From Associated Press

Owner Art Modell wasn’t the only no-show. His Cleveland Browns didn’t show up, either.

Chris Chandler threw for two touchdowns and ran for another Sunday, and rookie Rodney Thomas ran for a season-high 108 yards as the Houston Oilers beat the Browns, 37-10, before a Cleveland Stadium crowd hoping that the team does not move to Baltimore.

The game seemed to be a sideshow to the 57,881 who attended--there were an uncharacteristic 7,868 no-shows, not counting Modell--but the Oilers (4-5) clearly took it seriously. Their 37 points were the most allowed by the Browns at home since Bill Belichick became coach in 1991.

Cleveland (4-5) lost for the fourth time in its last five games.


“That was a very poor and embarrassing performance today by the Browns,” Belichick said. “We’re clearly not the team we were last year. The bottom line is, we’ve got to focus on where we are. This team has some character. We’ve got to reach down and find it.”

The Browns scored first on a four-yard pass from rookie Eric Zeier to Andre Rison in the first quarter, Rison’s 500th career reception.

But the Oilers then scored the next seven times they touched the ball. Al Del Greco started the Houston flurry with a 44-yard field goal late in the first quarter, the first of his three in the game, and Blaine Bishop finished it by stepping in front of Zeier’s pass and returning it 62 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown early in the fourth.

In between, Chandler scored on a two-yard scramble and threw touchdown passes of 23 yards to Haywood Jeffires and 15 yards to rookie Malcolm Seabron. Seabron’s catch midway through the third quarter, his first career touchdown, was set up by Thomas’ 43-yard run.

The Oilers, like the Browns, have been hearing talk that they won’t be playing in the same city next year.

Chandler was taken out of the game in the fourth quarter to have an injured left elbow examined. Precautionary X-rays were negative, and Chandler expects to play next week, but his absence gave the Oilers a chance to use rookie Steve McNair late in the fourth quarter for the first time this season.

McNair, the third overall pick in this year’s draft, didn’t throw a pass; he was sacked by Pepper Johnson in his only attempt.

Chandler completed 16 of 20 passes for 149 yards without an interception.