Browns lose 38-21 to Redskins in flat home finale

The fans booed and left early. The winning streak came to an
end. The playoffs are no longer possible.

This December will end like so many before it in Cleveland.

The Browns will have another losing season.

Unable to take advantage of quarterback Robert Griffin III’s
absence, the Browns couldn’t stop rookie Kirk Cousins and made too
many mistakes in a 38-21 loss Sunday to the Washington Redskins,
who won their fifth straight game and moved into a three-way tie
for first in the NFC East with New York and Dallas.

With a chance to close their home schedule with a win, the
Browns (5-9) fell flat.

Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden threw two costly
interceptions, running back Trent Richardson couldn’t find many
holes and Cleveland’s defense was taken apart by Cousins, who made
his first career start in place of an injured Griffin.

”We let ourselves down, and we let the whole city of Cleveland
down,” said Richardson, who rushed for two TDs and second-guessed
coach Pat Shurmur’s play calling. ”This was the last home game. We
were supposed to go out with a blast. This was a big ballgame for
us and we didn’t do what we were supposed to do.”

The Redskins decided one game without RG3 couldn’t hurt. He
disagreed, but after Cousins kept Washington’s winning streak and
playoff hopes intact, Griffin understood.

First place has him feeling better.

Cousins threw for 329 yards and threw two touchdown passes to
Leonard Hankerson and the Redskins (8-6) barely missed a beat
without the talented and multi-dimensional Griffin, who sat out
with a sprained right knee and wasn’t upset about having to stand
on the sideline and watch his teammates play.

”I was not happy with the decision,” said Griffin, who was
informed Saturday night of the plan to start Cousins. ”That’s the
decision they went with and I respect that. It doesn’t mean I have
to necessarily like it. I feel like I could have played this week,
next week, the week after. But that’s not my decision.”

The Browns were a long shot to make the playoffs. Riding a
three-game winning streak, they needed to win their last three and
would have required several other teams to lose to have any chance
at making the postseason for just the second time since 1999. But
that’s all over now, and Shurmur’s days in Cleveland could be
dwindling quickly.

By Jan. 1, the Browns may need a new coach, staff, general
manager and several prominent players could be headed elsewhere as
new owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner evaluate the
franchise.

It seems to be the same story in Cleveland every year.

”There’s a lot of uncertainty,” linebacker D’Qwell Jackson
said.

Following the game, Richardson criticized Shurmur for not
staying with his game plan.

”We should’ve stuck with it,” he said. ”But we didn’t and we
tried to go do some other stuff, and the outcome came in a
different way. When we did do it, it worked. So we got away from
it, and the outcome comes as an `L.”’

Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden struggled from the
outset. He went 21 of 35 for 244 yards and two picks, both leading
to Washington TDs.

Weeden’s performance will certainly renew debate over whether
he’s the quarterback of the future. He certainly didn’t look like
it against the Redskins.

”It’s frustrating,” Weeden said. ”We put ourselves in a hole
so early in the year to where we were having to play catch up.
These last few games were almost like playoff games because we’re
making pushes. It’s upsetting. We wanted to give our fans a better
final game at home and keep this momentum going.”

Shurmur refused to say Weeden suffered a setback.

”I don’t think it was his best game, but I think that can be
said for all of us,” Shurmur said.

Richardson’s second TD run gave the Browns a 14-10 lead with
1:11 left before halftime. Earlier, he broke Hall of Famer Jim
Brown’s 55-year-old team rookie record for rushing TDs.

”It means a lot, but we still lost,” Richardson said. ”So it
doesn’t mean nothing – for real. In the long run, I’m going to sit
back and think about it, but right now, I’ve got a 24-hour rule.
I’m not down about this game, but I’m very upset about this game.
So it really didn’t mean as much without that `W.”’

NOTES: Browns S T.J. Ward left in the fourth quarter with a knee
injury. Shurmur did not provide an update on Ward’s condition. …
K Phil Dawson did not attempt a field goal in possibly his final
home game after 14 seasons with Cleveland. The 37-year-old has been
franchised the past two seasons and doesn’t know if he’ll be back.
”I thought about it,” Dawson said. ”The fans have been
unbelievable, just overwhelmingly supportive. I did want to take a
few moments to let them know I love them. … DE Juqua Parker
recorded his team leading sixth sack. … KR Josh Cribbs moved into
fifth place in career kickoff return yardage with 9,913.

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