Browns reach new nadir
Entering Thursday night’s game in Baltimore, it had been 333 days since the Browns won a National Football League game. For the record, they hadn't won since defeating the San Francisco 49ers in Cleveland last Dec. 13.
After the Baltimore game, make that 334 days and counting.
Playing in front of a national television audience, the team that represents this once-proud franchise set one record for futility that might never be broken and another that definitely will never be broken.
For the 10th straight week, the Browns came out on the wrong end of the score, this time a withering 28-7 loss as the Ravens swept the season series. It’s the first time in club history they have gone this far into the season without winning at least one game. Overall, it was the 13th straight setback.
The franchise that once called itself The Greatest Show in Football – because at one time a long time ago it was – has fallen to .500 since winning their first game against the Philadelphia Eagles in 1950. The loss to the Ravens lowered the overall record to 461-461-10.
It isn’t easy playing winless football for an entire season the NFL. It has been done only once. Somewhere in a 16-game season, one would think the worst team in the league, which the Browns clearly are this season, would somehow stumble their way to a victory.
They actually led the Ravens, 7-6, at the half and looked fairly decent on both sides of the ball in the process. Forget embarrassingly calling time out even before the Ravens ran the first play of the game because they opened up on defense with 12 men on the field
Forget the second timeout taken only five plays into their first possession, which eventually turned into one of the Ravens’ four sacks. Even with those laughable faux pas, the narrow halftime lead still fostered hope for the second half.
Turns out it was false hope because this team for whatever reason plays an entirely different kind of football in the final 30 minutes of games. Scoring seems to be a foreign act for the Browns.
For the second straight game, they failed to put points on the board in the second half. It would have been three if Andrew Hawkins hadn’t scored a touchdown with 12 seconds left in the Cincinnati loss a few weeks ago.
The Browns have been outscored, 151-51, in the second half this season. And if fans feel compelled to point fingers of guilt for what unfolded in the second half of the Ravens game, one and all should direct them at Hue Jackson.
For whatever reason, the Cleveland coach felt better about inserting Josh McCown at quarterback in the second half after rookie Cody Kessler did nothing to embarrass himself in the first half or the first series of the second half.
Kessler’s 25-yard scoring pass to rookie tight end Seth DeValve culminated a seven-play, 75-yard drive that gave the Browns a 7-3 lead midway through the second quarter. The second of Justin Tucker’s two field goals made it a one-point game at the half.
McCown surprisingly took over on the second possession of the second half after the Ravens had taken their first lead of the game at 13-7 on a Joe Flacco four-yard scoring pass to tight end Darren Waller.
And when he entered, down went the Browns chances of emerging with a victory. As soon as he entered the game, Murphy’s Law tagged along. The only thing McCown did right all night was return to the correct bench after making one mistake after another.
In his five possessions, the offense ran 20 plays and produced 38 net yards. Seven of those plays and 37 of those yards were recorded late in the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth. They owned the ball for only eight minutes and 33 seconds while he ran the huddle.
By the end of the game, the Cleveland defense, which played moderately well in the first half, was spent, logging 20 minutes and 36 seconds in the second half after playing 18 in the first half. It’s the 10th straight game this season in which that defense surrendered at least 25 points and the ninth in which it gave up at least 28 points.
The offense, which has scored only 17 points in the last two losses, provided no help whatsoever. Three of McCown’s possessions ended up in turnovers, the other two in Britton Colquitt punts.
In addition to being sacked three times, he was picked by Jerraud Powers, a throw altered by linebacker Terrell Suggs, and Eric Weddle, and stripped of the ball later by Suggs. Three of his passes were either tipped of batted down.
The Baltimore offense, which failed to convert its first four third downs, succeeded on the next six in a row, two ending up as touchdown passes to Waller and wide receiver Steve Smith in the third quarter.
A Joe Haden interception in the end zone wiped out Powers’ early third-quarter theft, but Weddle’s pick at the beginning of the final quarter led to a 12-play, 91-yard drive touchdown march that took seven minutes and 27 seconds, Breshad Perriman on the scoring end of Flacco’s third touchdown pass.
McCown’s performance was unquestionably one of the most miserable displays of quarterbacking in recent Browns history and that takes in a whole lot of territory. The final stats showed him with six completions in 13 attempts for 59 yards, two picks, the fumble and three sacks for a loss of 29 yards.
And yet Jackson kept sending him back into the game, as if he believed something magical was about to happen, while Kessler, who was 11-of-18 in the first half for 91 yards and the touchdown, lingered on the sidelines. It made no sense.
Earlier in the week, Jackson said he planned to play Kessler the remainder of the season in order to find out whether the rookie is, indeed, the quarterback of the future for this moribund franchise. Well, that didn’t last long.
The coach now has 10 days to decide whether to grant Kessler a reprieve and ready him for the invasion of the Pittsburgh Steelers a week from Sunday in Cleveland or continue to start a 37-year-old journeyman quarterback who saw his best days a long, long time ago. There is a reason he is a journeyman.
It’s not as though Jackson is coaching for his job. The choice should be easy. If he wants Kessler to prove himself, yanking him midway through a game he is winning, albeit just barely, is not the way to show any confidence or get answers.