INDIANAPOLIS — Another Sunday, another dropped touchdown pass, another passel of second guesses. And yes, another Browns loss, the sixth in seven games this woeful season.
The team that can’t get out of its own way got back in its way again, losing to the Colts 17-13 in a game that had enough gaffes for several losses.
The only thing new? A much more animated — and angry — owner caught on camera in his private box.
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The Browns did themselves in in this loss — in so many ways.
They started by giving up a game-opening 7:23 touchdown drive. In the second quarter, the defensive sieve remained open, as the Colts used 7:41 to score again.
The Browns offense matched the first score, but then botched the extra point when holder Reggie Hodges dropped the snap. The Browns started the second half with a TD drive to cut the lead to one. But the scoring ended when Adam Vinatieri ended an 8:34 drive with a third quarter field goal.
And it set up some only-in-Cleveland craziness that featured Jimmy Haslam’s reaction to a missed touchdown and a decision to punt. The reactions were genuine, but Haslam might one day wish the cameras were elsewhere.
Trying to catch up on all the important plays isn’t easy, but …
Down four the Browns got their best field position when Sheldon Brown sacked Andrew Luck and forced a fumble that Brown recovered.
A pass to Travis Benjamin gained nine before Brandon Weeden threw incomplete deep to Benjamin; evidently the Browns figured second-and-1 was worth a shot down the field.
On third-and-1 — that dreaded Browns down — Weeden ran play-action and the Browns got exactly what they wanted: Josh Gordon running open on a deep post. Weeden threw it, then got hit in the jaw. Gordon ran under it, well ahead of Jerrraud Powers, who flailed helplessly.
The ball fell right in Gordon’s hands at the three, and right to the ground.
“Just dropped it,” Gordon said. “No sun. No excuses.”
Gordon had a big game going. He had caught a 30-yard touchdown in the third quarter, his third in three games. This one would have capped his day — and might have won the Browns their second game in a row.
“In a big-time moment like that, you definitely can blame the loss on me,” Gordon said.
The Browns then lined up for a fourth-and-1, and were going to try for the first down. But for whatever reason they didn’t get lined up until there were three seconds on the play-clock, so Weeden used a timeout.
What took so long?
“One, it was a long play,” he said. “Two, it was a big play. We wanted to make sure we were down to the right one. Essentially it could have been the ballgame. We wanted to make sure we had the right play, right personnel, right everything in there to do it like we wanted to do it. But we went up, and we ran out of time.”
During the timeout, Shurmur changed his mind and ordered a punt. A Phil Dawson field goal was not considered because Shurmur said 58 yards was out of Dawson’s range.
The discussion on the sideline?
“Just coach talk,” Shurmur said.
With players involved. Weeden said he gave his input.
“I’m a player,” Weeden said. “I’m too aggressive. They get the final say.” “I had two timeouts and better than six minutes (6:38),” Shurmur said. “We felt like the best thing to do was punt, which was the right decision in my opinion. But we did have a discussion.
“We need to get a better punt there.”
Which leads to Hodges.
On the first extra point, he simply said he let the ball slip out of his hands.
And on this punt, the ball went out of bounds at the 21.
“The call was to get it out of bounds,” Hodges said. “The ball went out of bounds.”
The implication: It seems like Hodges felt he could have kicked high and straight and forced a fair catch at or inside the 10. A straight kick also reduces the margin of error.
“The call,” Hodges said, “was to make sure we got it out of bounds.” It all could have been academic, as the Browns got the ball back at their 31 with 4:08 left. Weeden got them to the Colts 39, rushed a play just before the two-minute warning on third-and-six and threw incomplete to his college teammate Josh Cooper on fourth down, a play defended by Powers.
“I don’t know if he got a hand on it or not,” Cooper said. “It’s kind of a blur to me now. I should have made a play. I didn’t and he did.”
After the game, many took to posting photos from TV of Haslam looking more than distraught in his box. In his first official game as owner, Haslam will be memorialized — online at least — waving his hand in disgust after Gordon’s drop.
Which may be the cue for every Browns fan to say: Welcome to Cleveland, Mr. Haslam. Welcome to Cleveland.