Countdown to The Draft
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By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
Updated at 6:45 p.m.
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ
The Browns turned a 10-0 lead into a 24-13 loss to a New York Jets team playing out the string for lame-duck head coach Rex Ryan. Even Ryan expects to be fired next week. And the Jets are 7-8.
They let the lowest-ranked quarterback in the NFL repeatedly beat them on third downs. They watched the 32nd-ranked offense roll up 208 yards on the ground. They failed to snatch a single takeaway from the team that is last in the league with a minus-19 turnover differential.
On offense, they ran 20 plays inside the red zone and scored one touchdown. Thirteen of those plays started at the 10-yard line or less.
It added up to the Browns’ sixth loss in a row and 11th in 15 games, with the annual season-ending feast of humble pie in Pittsburgh yet to come.
The loss assured the first-year Browns’ coaching staff of the worst record among the eight new ones in 2013.
“You can’t imagine how I feel,” said coach Rob Chudzinski, who looked like he’d been in a street fight. “I bear all the responsibility. I’m the head coach of the football team. Ultimately, this is on me. I’m committed to get it right.”
In the locker room, defensive players struggled to explain how rookie quarterback Geno Smith, he of the 62.8 season passer rating, converted 12 of 18 third downs and produced a two-TD, no-turnover passing day; how Chris Ivory led a relentless ground attack with 109 rushing yards; how Smith pranced untouched from 17 yards for a scoring run.
“Honestly, we got smacked,” said cornerback Joe Haden, who recovered from his hip pointer injury last week and played the whole game.
“They had a phenomenal day rushing vs. us. Our front seven played like crap,” said linebacker D’Qwell Jackson.
“I am pretty sure anybody who comes in here to play expects to get turnovers against them,” said safety Tashaun Gipson. “No turnovers for (Smith), so I guess he put his foot in my mouth.”
The defense blew a 10-0 lead by allowing 10 points in the last 1:18 of the first half. Smith’s first of two TD passes to David Nelson, the big receiver cut by the Browns in August, woke up the Jets. After the Browns punted, Smith moved them down again, 79 yards in 34 seconds – aided by a Gipson unnecessary roughness for pushing Smith after he was out of bounds – to tie the game on a field goal.
It marked the eighth time in the last nine games the Browns have allowed a scoring drive in the last two minutes of the first half. Two of those games they have allowed two scores.
“The first six weeks of the season it was a different story,” said Jackson. “I don’t know what’s happened. We’ve tried everything.”
After the Jets’ surge to tie, Browns quarterback Jason Campbell said the offense -- he, everybody -- just unraveled.
Last week, Campbell said the offense was out of rhythm partly because of the wind and the cold and trying to stay warm on the bench. Sunday in MetLife Stadium, the temperature was 70 degrees at kickoff.
“Once they got their confidence going, I think we started to press,” Campbell said. “I started to press. I think after the first half – it should have been 21-0 – I missed a couple throws, we had a couple drops. I think we just unraveled a little bit. It starts with me.
“Today, you saw our team pressing a little bit.”
In the first quarter, Greg Little had two drops in the end zone. He was benched on the next series for Brian Tyms. In the second quarter, Josh Gordon had two drops and failed twice to come down with Campbell fades in the left corner of the end zone.
In one horrible sequence, the Browns ran six plays inside the 10. They turned the ball over after Gordon bobbled Campbell’s fade on fourth down from the 2.
Gordon wound up with six catches for 97 yards to keep alive his trek to lead the NFL in receiving yards. But he was targeted 16 times and admitted he left many plays on the field.
“If I could have capitalized on at least one of those plays, it would have put us over the top,” Gordon said. “I just didn’t get it done.
“Those goal-line and red zone plays seem more difficult for us than scoring from distance. I’m not sure why.”
Campbell wound up with ugly numbers – 18 of 40, 178 yards, three sacks, two interceptions and a 37.3 rating.
“I’m disappointed in letting things get to us the last couple weeks,” Campbell said. “It just deflates you. It’s a lot easier when you’re winning. Today, we started pressing.
“We all feel we’re letting everyone down. We want to win. Coaches are up all night preparing us. Everything is just adding up at the end.”
Adding up to one terrible season. If the Browns lose in Pittsburgh and finish at 4-12, it would tie for the third-worst record since the franchise returned in 1999. Only the first two seasons of expansion were worse. They also were 4-12 in 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2011.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to email@example.comFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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