CLEVELAND – At this point it would feel like piling on to compare the ways the Browns bumbled and missed chances, and threw away both points, and a chance to beat the Chicago Bears on Sunday to past disasters.
It’s just that they all feel similar at this point. This was like so many others; too many others, really, and though the names change and the circumstances change and none are truly connected to the others, it’s hard to look at it as really anything but one big, depressing circle at this point.
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Another home season ended on Sunday at the place now called First Energy Stadium. Right now, the name is about all that’s different.
Against all odds, the Browns have lost at least 10 games 10 times in the last 11 seasons. They extended that improbable streak on Sunday, losing 38-31 after the Bears ran off 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, a run that started with a 95-yard drive that at least a few people saw coming.
Mostly those who have been watching those 11 seasons. Or even longer.
The next time the Browns play at First Energy Stadium, there will be new scoreboards. There will likely be a bunch of new players, too. There will probably be a highly-drafted rookie quarterback, maybe under center but possibly watching with a clipboard in hand. That’s a guess, of course, but the Browns are on that path. Again.
This season can’t end soon enough. That’s not a guess.
There’s another new group of decision makers, coaches and players. The Browns remain a team in transition, and though the overall talent level is probably better than it’s been in past similar situations, that’s more an indictment of that disappointing history than an endorsement of what’s going on.
The Browns have won once since Nov. 3.
At one point this season, it looked like the Browns had both a real strength and a real building block with their defense. They finished Sunday’s game with half of their starting secondary sidelined by injury, but the Bears had been marching before that. Jay Cutler overcame two first-half interceptions — both by Tashaun Gipson; he returned one for a touchdown — to lead the Bears back to a crucial victory.
In fact, the Browns scored two defensive touchdowns on Sunday and still lost. They got gashed for 440 total yards by the Bears at an average of almost seven per play. The Bears tied the game and knocked the wind out of the Browns with that 95-yard scoring drive to start the fourth quarter and then scored twice after that.
Asked after the game how all of that that made up the 21-point run happened, the defense’s locker-room leader, D’Qwell Jackson, said “I don’t know. I have no answer for you.”
It’s hard to knock Jackson for that answer because it’s hard to explain how this has gone on for so long.
Oh, so long.
The Browns finish their home schedule 3-5. It’s been so bad that a 4-4 home season would have been a welcome change, a sign of real progress. The run wide receiver Josh Gordon had been on in the previous four games, one that broke NFL records, marked some of that progress.
Then Sunday happened. Gordon caught a long touchdown pass in the final minute, when the game felt over and, despite that touchdown cutting the deficit to seven, it essentially was.
The Browns lined up for a desperation onside kick which they did not recover. Almost fittingly, they were called for illegal formation anyway.
Five yards before a merciful kneeldown. One more error on a terribly long list of them.
“It was a disappointing and frustrating loss today,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said. “We’re disappointed that we weren’t able to win the last game here at home with our fans. (We) appreciate their loyalty and their support all season long, and that support will pay off down the road.”
It’s about the future for this team, clearly, and in many ways it has been. It’s still nice to win. It’s still nice to point towards that future and point to something more than Gordon. This administration’s first-round pick, Barkevious Mingo, has one sack since the last weekend of October. Mingo might still grow into an impact player, but his lack of production this season isn’t for lack of opportunity.
Everybody throws on the Browns. Often. Even if you dismiss last week’s improbable Patriots comeback as some sort of magic that happens when Tom Brady is involved in New England, Chad Henne still threw on the Browns the week before that. And Ben Roethlisberger threw all over the Browns the week before that.
It’s been happening for a while. It’s time for 2013 to end, and that’s not piling on. That’s simply telling the story of yet another season of Cleveland Browns football.