CLEVELAND — Next to impossible, that’s what it is.
It’s next to impossible to grasp some of the things that happen with the Cleveland Browns.
Next to impossible to grasp, explain and take.
Ask the players, all of whom had blank looks on their faces after Sunday’s 25-15 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
There was bitterness and anger at letting a more-than-winnable game get away and at falling to 2-7 heading into the bye. There were some rare no-comments from the quarterback about some of the things that went wrong, and there were many second guessable decisions — primarily because the Browns lost.
Chief among them: A decision by coach Pat Shurmur to go for a first down on fourth-and-2 from the Browns 28-yard-line with 3:53 left and the Browns down seven.
The coach who punted with more than six minutes left on fourth-and-1 from the other team’s 41 in an earlier game decided to go for it with two timeouts and the two-minute warning remaining.
“I wanted to get the first down,” Shurmur said.
The way the team carried itself was downright bizarre.
The offense stood around in the huddle as if they didn’t expect to go for it, then walked to line. When the ball was snapped Brandon Weeden sailed a pass high over Greg Little, the only guy he looked at.
The Browns ran three receivers on slants — similar to the fourth-down pass Weeden threw to Josh Cooper in Indianapolis that was broken up. Little said he was open, which was debatable. Weeden sailed it so high a play on the ball was impossible.
When it was mentioned that going for it seemed against his nature given the previous fourth-down decision in Indianapolis, Shurmur sounded perplexed.
“What do you mean?” Shurmur said. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, my nature. I don’t know you that well. You don’t know me that well.
“In both situations the decision didn’t lead us to a victory, did it? Right? So that’s why you talk about it. Had we converted it and we move forward then it would have been talked about in ‘what a gutsy move it was.’ Right?”
Was Weeden surprised that the Browns went for it Sunday after not going for it against the Colts?
“That’s not my decision,” Weeden said. “Whatever is in my headset I’m calling.”
Which of course brought up the three times during the game when the Browns had to burn a timeout because play calls did not get in to his headset.
“I’m not going to comment on that either,” Weeden said.
Bitter? Angry? Steamed?
Pick a word for this team.
“Fed up with it,” said linebacker D’Qwell Jackson.
“Definitely deflating,” said cornerback Joe Haden.
The Browns followed a win with a golden chance to win their third in four games. They started terribly and fell behind 14-0, but fought back and actually dominated the game for a good stretch.
What was probably most maddening was that the Browns did so much to hurt themselves:
• Five times they got inside Baltimore’s 20, five times they got field goals.
• Their first two possessions they called for passes on third-and-1 and missed both, and wound up running six plays while falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter.
• When they finally got in the end zone on a pass to Josh Gordon, the play was negated by a penalty on Chris Ogbonnaya for an illegal formation, another call that had new owner Jimmy Haslam rubbing his eyes. Nobody disputed the penalty, either.
• On the play following the TD/penalty, the Browns ran inside on third-and-11. They basically took the field goal — and a 15-14 lead. Perhaps they did it because the defense had just forced the Ravens to punt seven times and kneel down once to end the half.
• When it counted most, the Browns let the Ravens drive 81 yards for a game-winning touchdown. Included on the drive was a roughing the passer penalty on T.J. Ward for hitting Joe Flacco in the head, a call Ward disputed, and a declined penalty for 12 men on the field.
“It just hurt,” Ward said. “To know we stopped them for so long and to let them off the hook.”
• A two-point conversion made the deficit seven, and the Browns then ran a series of plays that bordered on inexplicable. Baltimore took away two receivers on third-and-4, so Weeden threw for two to Greg Little. Then came the ill-fated fourth down throw that sailed wildly high.
• And the timeouts wasted because play calls did not get in on time. “All that is obviously my responsibility to make sure we get enough guys on the field, and then make sure we play well and coach well,” Shurmur said.
That these kinds of things are happening after six weeks of training camp, four preseason games and in the ninth regular season game defies reasonable logic.
High school teams make fewer mistakes.
Then again, high school teams aren’t the Browns, the group that that just can’t seem to get out of its own way.