Cleveland Browns' Brandon Weeden throws during the second half of an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
Cleveland Browns' Brandon Weeden throws during the second half of an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
By Jeff Schudel

Coach Pat Shurmur had a simple and direct answer Wednesday when asked what Brandon Weeden has to do to improve in the second half of the season.

"Don't throw interceptions," he said. "Done - end of story. I want to be right to the point."

Shurmur did not have to dig deep during the bye week to come up with that one. It's like the joke about a gray-bearded guru on a mountain top telling a follower the secret to a long life: "Refrain from dying."
Weeden has thrown 12 interceptions. He has thrown multiple interceptions four times. Not surprisingly the Browns lost all four games. He threw one pick when the Browns beat the Bengals, 34-24, and none in the 7-6 victory over the Chargers.

"I have to play better," Weeden said after practice. "I know that. I'm not a moron. I have to do my part to help this team win.

"I'm a rookie. I'm still playing teams for the first time. I'm still seeing things for the first time. I'm not a nine-or 10-year veteran. I think people might lose track of that sometimes. That is what it is. I have to play better."

Weeden never played the rookie card like that during the first nine weeks. He was asked if he is under more scrutiny than other rookies because he is 29 and did not have a direct answer.

"I don't know," he said. "I could be 34 and it doesn't matter. I've still only played nine games. Everybody's got a different opinion on it and my opinion is, I'm busting my tail day in and day out to try to get better. I feel like I put in the work and I'm not shortchanging myself.

"If I'm not putting in the work that I need to put in to get better, then I've got to look in the mirror. But 29 or not, this position at this level, you've got to argue is one of the toughest in all of sports for sure and like I said, I can be 21, 29, 41. Ask Brett Favre. He finished in his 40s (41) and I guarantee he would still say it was hard."

When the Browns play Sunday in Dallas, they will face a quarterback who has thrown more interceptions. Tony Romo has thrown 13 picks.

Most of Romo's interceptions have come in chunks. He threw five in a 34-18 loss to the Bears and four in a 29-24 loss to the Giants.

Romo has played in 114 games. In his 86 starts, the Cowboys are 23-10 when he doesn't throw an interception and 24-13 when he throws only one. They are 4-12 when he throws two or more.

"Interceptions always fall on the quarterback," Romo said in a conference call Wednesday. "I don't care if it's a tipped ball or someone runs the wrong route or you get hit when you throw it. It all falls back on the quarterback's lap.

"As a quarterback, you have to let it go. You have to trust the people that are around you. Otherwise, you don't have a chance as an offense. And our team is doing that now."

Romo did not throw an interception in either of the last two games. Dallas lost to Atlanta, 19-13, and beat the Eagles, 38-23. Romo threw a combined three touchdown passes in those games.

Weeden is trying to walk the fine line of being aggressive and being smart. Two interceptions thrown by Weeden in the red zone in the game against the Giants led directly to the 41-27 loss. In the most recent game vs. Baltimore, the Browns were in the red zone five times. Weeden did not throw one pass in the end zone and the Browns lost, 25-15, to the Ravens without scoring a touchdown.

"We never want to throw interceptions," Weeden said. "That's kind of been my priority since I played peewee football. My aggressive manner, my mindset, sometimes gets me in trouble, but I'm not going to take that away from myself. I agree I've got to take care of the football. I've got to cut down on them, but I think guys that are aggressive like that - sometimes that's one category they unfortunately may have a couple more than they'd like. It's not good, but we're just being aggressive and sometimes making that aggressive throw catapults you to get momentum."

Weeden still ranks in the top half of the league with 29 completions of 20 yards or longer. He is tied with Romo for 12th, but that number has slipped steadily. At one point he was fifth in the league, a notch ahead of Tom Brady in New England.