Cleveland Browns: 2013 Week 16 CLE at NYJ

Emotions simmer after bad loss to Jets

December, 22, 2013
It took 15 games, six consecutive losses and one real bad performance in a 24-13 loss to the Jets, but Cleveland Browns coach Rob Chudzinski broke his flatline postgame approach.

For the first time all season, Chudzinski showed some emotion -- and anger. It was nothing over the top, but it was there.

He called the effort unacceptable, said it was tough to swallow.

[+] EnlargeRob Chudzinski
Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY Sports"I'm the head coach of this team," Rob Chudzinski said. "So ultimately this is on me."
Of losing six in a row, nine of 10 and playing so poorly at this point of the season, he said: “You can’t imagine how I feel about that.”

During the week leading up to the game, the coach had talked about seeing things that made him believe in the long-term plan. After the game he admitted there weren’t a lot of good things to see against the Jets.

Then he said the team’s results and play falls on him.

“I bear all the responsibility,” Chudzinski said. “I’m the head coach of this team. So ultimately this is on me, and I’m committed to get it right.”

With all due respect to his professional approach, it’s on a lot more than the coach. While the present regime can blame the previous one because it doesn’t like the players it inherited, this team has regressed as the season has gone on. The team has left salary-cap space unspent even though several positions could be upgraded while at the same time making a great effort to build for 2014 and beyond.

The constant tension between a front office building for the future and a coaching staff wanting to win now was never more apparent than during the past few days, as the coach and offensive coordinator Norv Turner tried to explain where the team is headed and why decisions are made.

The Browns added two receivers in the offseason, Davone Bess via trade and David Nelson via free agency. Bess is done for the season due to personal issues after a very disappointing season.

Nelson spent much of preseason with the Browns while recovering from knee surgery. He played fairly well in the preseason finale, then was cut.

Sunday he caught two touchdowns against the Browns -- the first two of his season and the first two-touchdown game of his career. In the same game, Greg Little and Josh Gordon dropped two touchdown catches, and Jason Campbell was throwing passes to Brian Tyms, Josh Cooper and MarQueis Gray -- a college quarterback playing tight end.

There are a lot of reasons to explain the Browns' 4-11 record, beginning with team starting three different quarterbacks and having no real running game.

The defensive meltdowns -- they had no hits or sacks of Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith -- are harder to explain, other than the defense is simply not what it was touted to be.

But NFL players have 16 opportunities to play hard and play well. On this particular Sunday the Browns did neither.

What was left was for Chudzinski to respond this way when asked what he’d say to the fans: “Hang in there. We’ll get it right.”

Which is tough for fans to hear when the team has won 27 games over the past six seasons (with one left).

Chudzinski just happens to be the guy who speaks after games. But the team’s owner, CEO and GM have not had a lot to say.

Losing to the Patriots and Bears, two teams competing for the playoffs, is one thing.

Losing with a half-hearted, sloppy and uninspired effort against a team that’s playing for nothing but pride is quite another.

If Jacksonville was rock bottom for the Browns, this effort had them looking for rocks to hide under.

Browns continue to find new lows

December, 22, 2013
Pick a word for the performance the Cleveland Browns put on the field Sunday against the New York Jets. Any or all apply.

Brutal. Ugly. Half-hearted. Lifeless. Disappointing. Sloppy.

The Browns talked all week about having two more chances this season to put forth their best effort.

They performed as poorly as they have all season, and maybe in years (and that's saying something) during a 24-13 loss.

[+] EnlargeCleveland's Gary Barnidge
Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY SportsGary Barnidge and the Browns struggled to hold onto the ball against the Jets.
There were dropped touchdown passes, a penalty on the defense for 12 men on the field, a penalty that wiped out a touchdown run, two interceptions and a defense that gave up 10 points in the final 1:18 of the first half and an 80-yard drive when the Browns had cut a fourth-quarter deficit to 17-13.

It also allowed Geno Smith and the Jets to be masters of third down.

The Jets started the game converting 36.4 percent. The Browns gave up 66.7 percent, 12-of-18.

A week ago, the Bears had the best day on third down against the Browns in five years -- 64.3 percent.

The Jets, a 6-8 team that had turned the ball over 29 times, did better. And the Browns did not force a single turnover.

A week after Jay Cutler went 11-for-12 for 152 yards with two touchdowns on third down, Geno Smith (unofficially) went 9-for-12 for 107 yards, six of the completions for first downs, one for a touchdown.

For good measure he ran for a 17-yard touchdown to seal the win.

The Browns defense has been living on numbers and ranking all season, but the numbers show for the second week in a row that a back had 100 yards against them. First it was Matt Forte, this week it was Chris Ivory, as the Jets ran for 208 yards.

The numbers also show that the Browns have given up 79 points in the final two minutes of halves. They started the game with 69 points in that time, 29th in the league, then gave up 10 to the Jets in the final 1:18 as the Browns saw a 10-0 lead dissipate into a halftime tie.

Go down the line, though. Greg Little and Josh Gordon dropped touchdowns that could have changed the game (on two red zone possessions, the Browns got three points when they could have had 14). Gordon (six catches in 16 targets) was handled by rookie Dee Milliner. Gary Barnidge's penalty wiped out a rushing touchdown.

Campbell was a woeful 18-for-40 for 178 yards with two interceptions. One killed a third-quarter drive, the last was in desperation time. He also badly overthrew a wide-open MarQueis Gray late in the first half on an important third down.

Dropped passes can take the life out of a team, as does letting the opposition convert third downs. Maybe that, or maybe 11 losses this season explains some things. The Browns looked lifeless, listless and as if they have mentally checked out.

Coach Rob Chudzinski called it unacceptable.

Which might be an understatement.

Rapid Reaction: Cleveland Browns

December, 22, 2013
A few thoughts on the Cleveland Browns' 24-13 loss to the New York Jets:

What it means: That the Browns have a lot of problems, and all the folks saying how close they are and how the 2014 NFL draft can make the difference might want to realize the depth of their problems. They start at quarterback and go throughout the offense and defense, which has given up long fourth-quarter touchdown drives in the past four games. Sunday’s 80-yard Jets drive lasted more than six minutes and gave New York a 24-13 lead -- after the Browns had cut the deficit to 17-13.

Stock watch: How can a team’s stock not be plummeting when it loses six games in a row heading to the finale in Pittsburgh? One year after new ownership and leadership promised a new approach and smarter decisions, the Browns must win in Pittsburgh to match last season’s five-win total.

Dropped chances: The Browns can lament a lot of mistakes from this game. Wasted timeouts. Twelve men on the field for the defense. Two interceptions of Jason Campbell. A penalty that wiped out a touchdown. But they may most lament dropping two passes in the end zone in the first half, wiping out touchdowns. For good measure, they even had a penalty wipe out a touchdown run in the fourth quarter. This was a bad, bad, bad game.

Poor finishes: The Browns gave up 10 points in the final 1:18 of the first half. That makes eight of the past nine games in which they gave up a scoring drive in the final two minutes of the half -- for 53 points. The defense is failing to get off the field in quarters other than the fourth.

Not smart: Safety Tashaun Gipson helped give the Jets their last-play field goal at the end of the half by pushing Jets quarterback Geno Smith when he was a few steps out of bounds. It appeared that Smith took a dive after the shove, but there was no reason whatsoever for Gipson to even touch Smith. He was out of bounds, the play was over, and the league has made it clear the quarterback is sacred.

What’s next: The season comes to a merciful end in Pittsburgh, where the Browns face the Steelers.