Sunday, December 1, 2013
Browns' loss among worst since 1999
By Pat McManamon
There are losses.
There are bad losses.
There are really bad losses.
And there are fiascos.
The Cleveland Browns hit the jackpot against the Jacksonville Jaguars, losing 32-28 and reporting postgame that their quarterback had a concussion.
Meanwhile, the fans at home and in the stands might have hurt their palms smacking themselves in the forehead.
The Browns lost to a 2-9 team.
After their receiver gave them as exciting and uplifting a play as they have had in years. And after their self-styled standout defense gave up an 80-yard game-winning drive.
To Chad Henne.
This loss to the Jaguars was as bad as any since 1999.
And it had players either silent or extremely emotional in the locker room.
Joe Haden was near tears as he talked with expletives about being tired of losing and frustrated at the way things have gone. Three weeks ago, the Browns were 4-5 and people were talking about finally playing a big game in November. They now are 4-8 and headed toward a top-five draft pick.
“You’re going to come with the same questions every week and we’re going to give you the same answers,” Haden said, his voice cracking as he spoke to the media. “We’re gonna get better next week. We’re gonna get better next week.
“Until we do it, then there’s nothing else to talk about.”
He was right.
The Browns made enough gaffes to fill a follies film -- except for Cleveland fans the product on the field has been constant football follies since 1999. To win six times for the first time since 2007, the Browns would need to split their final four games -- which is more than highly unlikely.
Where to start is the question. Brandon Weeden had some pretty numbers (370 yards passing, three touchdowns) but a brutal finish to the first half. In the final 2:47, he threw two interceptions and lost a fumble, turnovers that gave the Jaguars 13 points.
The probability of three turnovers in that time frame might make NASA scratch its collective head.
In the second half, the Browns had a 21-20 lead and had held the Jaguars to no first downs and five yards in the third quarter.
On first down from their 14, the Browns called for a run out of the shotgun, but center Alex Mack sailed the ball over Weeden’s head. Weeden didn’t take a chance and kicked the ball out of the end zone for a safety. Jacksonville followed with a field goal to take a four-point lead.
But the Browns had every reason to believe after Josh Gordon turned a short pass into a 95-yard touchdown. With 3:55 left, the Browns had the lead.
“I thought that we were actually going to have a momentum swing right there,” Gordon said. “We did for a second.”
Which is the problem. Good teams don’t hold onto huge momentum swings for a second. They seize them by the throat. They finish the job.
And the same defense that let the Jaguars have five yards in the third quarter gave up 137 in the fourth -- including a game-winning 80-yard touchdown drive.
Which entered the game ranked last in the league in (among other things) total offense, yards per play, rushing yards, first downs, red zone efficiency and points scored per game.
“There’s no way they should have been down there, but they got down there,” safety Tashaun Gipson said.
The Browns have some impressive defensive numbers, but they have been lacking all season in red-zone and third-down defense. Both caught up to them on the final drive, with the Jaguars converting two third downs, including the touchdown.
The group in the locker room was frayed and rattled. Emotions were raw. Coach Rob Chudzinski talked about losses such as this being “unacceptable.”
But the only thing that’s really been unacceptable is the product the Browns have given their fans year after year after year.
How much longer fans put up with it remains the unanswerable question.