That glad-hander named opportunity knocked furiously on the Browns' door all afternoon Sunday down in Jacksonville. In fact, it pounded on that door. Damn near blasted the thing off its hinges.
Unfortunately, no one answered.
The Jacksonville Jaguars, clearly feeling in the holiday mood a few days early, did everything they could to give away their game with the Browns. Need an interception? Here, how about four of them? And just because we feel like it, we'll throw in a couple of fumble recoveries. Have fun.
The Cleveland offense said, "Thank you very much," and proceeded to engage in a little holiday frolicking of its own. After considerable thought, the offense reconsidered and declined to take advantage of the Jags' generosity.
Rarely, if ever, will you find a football team at any level that turns six turnovers into a measly and embarrassing 10 points and loses the game. Yet, that's exactly what transpired in northern Florida as the Browns gift-wrapped a 24-20 Jaguars victory with an offensive display that had the distinct aroma of something Browns fans witnessed in 1999.
Frustrating does not even begin to describe the aftertaste of this one. Neither does disappointing. When a team eschews the extraordinary amount of generosity it received Sunday and does not take advantage, one has to wonder just how close the Browns are toward turning the corner. For a while, it looked as though that corner was in sight.
In what appeared to be a positive and hopeful look at the immediate future following four well-played games against the best teams in the National Football League, this has to be regarded as a gigantic step back in a direction no one wants to even contemplate.
If last Sunday's loss to the New York Jets was bitter, the latest setback almost defies description.
Incredibly, the Browns created five of their six turnovers in consecutive series in the second half. Five straight times, the Jaguars turned over the ball. In the NFL, that is considered suicidal. There was no luck involved. All five were legitimate and well earned.
Where the Jacksonville offense sputtered and stammered, the Cleveland defense capitalized. And when the Cleveland offense sputtered and stammered, the Jacksonville defense picked up their teammates. They made Colt McCoy look like what he is -- a rookie. They absolutely crushed the Browns' offensive line all afternoon and delivered a battering to McCoy that he hasn't experienced in a long time.
Each time the Jags belched a turnover, the defense stiffened. It's time to read 'em and weep.
Second quarter: Abram Elam, playing perhaps his best game as a Brown, picks off a Maurice Jones-Drew halfback option pass. The result: Three plays for minus-5 yards from the Cleveland 20 and a punt.
Third quarter: Elam rakes the ball out of Jones-Drew's arms, recovers and goes 18 yards for a touchdown.
Third quarter: T. J. Ward makes the first of his two interceptions against David Garrard. The result: Three plays for minus 4 yards from the Jags' 48 and a punt.
Third quarter: Joe Haden picks off Garrard. The result: Three plays for minus-1 yard from the Jacksonville 19 and a 38-yard Phil Dawson field goal.
Fourth quarter: Ray Ventrone forces a Garrard fumble and Chris Gocong recovers. The result: Three plays for minus-1 yard from the Cleveland 43 and a punt.
Fourth quarter: Ward makes his second interception off a deflection. The result: Three plays for 2 yards and a missed Dawson field goal from 51 yards.
Add it up and please pass the Pepto-Bismol. Not counting the Elam TD, the Browns' offense mustered minus-9 yards in 15 snaps with three punts, one successful field goal and a missed field goal following the other TOs. Awful.
Now that, by any standard, is considered exquisite transition defense by the Jags, who dropped McCoy six times, hit him eight other times and recorded numerous hurries. They bull-rushed almost all afternoon and took away his throwing lanes. At least four of the sacks were of the coverage variety.
It was almost as though the 16-play, 92-yard drive that consumed nearly 10 minutes and resulted in the first Cleveland touchdown was an aberration. What went right on that drive was never repeated.
The Browns never countered the fierce Jacksonville pass rush with quick-developing plays. No slants, no outs, very little misdirection. McCoy really had no chance.
The offense was so awful in the second half, Eric Mangini had to call time out at least once down the stretch to give his gassed defense a chance to catch its breath. That tired state helped contribute to Jones-Drew's remarkable 75-yard catch and run with a Garrard pass in the final minutes, during which three Browns flailed at him with arm tackles and missed. It led to the winning TD.
This latest loss should serve as a slap in the face for those players who might have taken this game too lightly. No one knows for certain, but they had to be feeling pretty good about themselves after how well they played during their difficult four-game stretch.
It'll be interesting to see how this humbling loss affects them as they prepare for next Sunday's game at home against Carolina. How they perform should give us a little more insight as to the personality of this team.