CLEVELAND — From high on the ramps at Cleveland Browns Stadium on Sunday, one sound wafted up from the lower deck as fans departed.
“Hail to the Redskins,” sang a group of Washington types. “Hail victory.”
On it went, the ultimate insult to the home team that started the game with hopes of continuing some long-lost positive momentum built with three wins in a row. Not only did the Browns not continue to build, they took what they had and dropped it with a splat on the ground.
Washington’s 38-21 win was that emphatic, as the Redskins turned a 14-10 halftime deficit into a runaway by controlling the ball for more than 21 minutes of the second half.
It was one of those days that could cause new ownership and a new management team to reassess almost everything, from the GM to the coach to the quarterback. New owner Jimmy Haslam and president Joe Banner now have all the justification they need to go with yet another re-start for the team has a re-start ever two or three years.
Brandon Weeden had his worst game since the opener.
Trent Richardson felt the need to apologize to the fans.
And the defense played as poorly as it has in a long time.
Coach Pat Shurmur called it a “team loss.” Which masters the obvious very well.
In dropping to 5-9, the Browns found themselves shaken and wondering, with first-round draft pick Trent Richardson saying the Browns did not prepare for some of what Washington did defensively and that the Browns should have stuck to their gameplan.
The Browns also found themselves giving up 38 points and 329 yards passing to a rookie, backup, fourth-round pick making his first start. Kirk Cousins carved the Browns up with play-action bootleg after play-action bootleg.
The defense never figured it out — despite the fact that Shurmur said the Browns prepared for it and knew about it. If they did it was sure tough to tell.
Cousins threw for 329 yards and two touchdowns. Washington had 25 first downs (to the Browns 13), and had the ball for 36:17 (compared to 23:43). In the second half, Washington had the ball for 21:28 compared to 8:32 for the Browns.
Cousins threw one first-half interception, but Weeden threw two in the second half that were especially costly as the Browns saw a 14-10 lead disappear quickly.
Mike Shanahan’s system and playcalls seemed to mesh far better with Cousins than the Browns system did with Weeden. He had four passes batted down at the line, looked hesitant and was late, and threw a pass out of bounds on fourth down He threw one interception early in the second half when he misread a linebacker, and threw another late on just a poor throw.
“I didn’t play well for the most part throughout,” Weeden said. Shurmur said Weeden’s game was not his best, but added it was “not a setback.” OK, then.
The Redskins started the game ranked 31st in the NFL against the pass. A long TD throw with the Browns trailing 31-14 made Weeden’s numbers look good and brought the Browns within 10 with 10:11 left, but the Redskins responded with a 76-yard, 5:11 touchdown drive to put the game away.
This was complete collapse, as Richardson ran for just 28 yards on 11 carries and the defense was shredded by the simplest of play-action fakes.
Then came the postgame when perhaps intentionally, perhaps not, the Browns two main rookies made some pointed remarks about the way things went.
Weeden said over and over that Cousins was put in position to succeed by the Redskins coaches. Richardson said the Browns should have stuck with their gameplan and called the fact he had two carries in the second half “shocking.”
“But I gotta let coach do what he do,” Richardson said.
Shurmur kept the stiff upper lip, saying the loss leaves the team getting ready to play in Denver next Sunday.
A week ago the dreams of Browns fans were grandiose. No more. That longest-of-longshot playoff hopes officially ended with the loss, and now the games in Denver and Pittsburgh look that much tougher.
Weeden reacted angrily when it was mentioned they had earned their three-game win streak by playing weak opponents.
“We’re not playing in podunk-town and (not playing) podunk football,” he said.
But the loss ensured the Browns fifth losing season in a row, and ninth in 10 years.