Offensive meltdown does in Browns against Jacksonville

CLEVELAND– Things can change quickly in the NFL.

That was so true as the Browns saw a momentum swing change in the final 2:47 of the first half as the Browns offense suffered a meltdown. The Jaguars scored three times in the final 79 seconds of the first half and saw a 14-7 Cleveland lead turn into a 20-14 deficit in that short period of time.

Coach Rob Chudzinski knows the mistakes ultimately cost the Browns the win.

“It was critical in the course of the game,” Chudzinski said. “It was huge and a huge momentum swing going into the half. Multiple turnovers there occurred and (we) can’t have it. They were able to get 13 points in a short amount of time and it really changed the complexion of the game.

“I thought our guys rallied at halftime and came out with a big drive in the second half and showed their determination and showed the type of character that this team is made of,” he said. “But again, those critical mistakes, turnovers, are killing us in those games. We’re just not able to overcome.”

The Browns had the lead four different times in the game, but in the end lost a 32-28 decision to the Jaguars as Cecil Shorts III (a product of Mount Union) beat Joe Haden for a 20-yard touchdown with just 40 seconds to play. The defense had played well but gave up an 80-yard drive for the decisive score. Haden was beaten for a touchdown for the second straight game after only allowing one touchdown all season. The Browns fall to 4-8 after losing for the sixth time in the last seven games.

The offense directly or indirectly gave up 18 points, 13 in the final moments of the first half and five more in a 3:28 span during the fourth quarter with a safety and a field goal. Brandon Weeden turned the ball over three times in the final moments of the first half. He threw back-to-back interceptions and fumbled after being sacked, all in the last three minutes of the half. It was announced after the game that Weeden suffered a concussion when he showed symptoms after the game.

Jordan Cameron was asked if the mistakes the Browns were making were mental.

“It could be that, but we just can’t turn the ball over,” the tight end said. “Whatever the negative energy, or momentum, whatever that it is, we just can’t do it. It’s the main thing we’ve preached all week, protecting the ball and we have to do a better job of that.”

The barrage began with the Browns leading 14-7 with 2:47 to play in the second quarter when Johnathan Cyprien stepped in front of a pass intended for Jordan Cameron and returned it 27 yards to the Browns’ 17. The return set up a halfback option pass from Maurice Jones-Drew to Mercedes Lewis to make it 14-14 with 1:19 to play.

Rather than going into the half tied at 14-14 with 1:19 to play the Browns decided to be aggressive and Weeden threw an interception on the next play to Dwayne Gratz as he tried to hit Greg Little. He returned it to the Browns’ 28 and Josh Scobee hit a 44-yard field goal to make it 17-14 with 48 seconds left in the half.

However, the meltdown wasn’t over. With 48 seconds left and starting on their own 20, the Browns picked up a first down and moved to the 45 with 14 seconds left. On the next play, Weeden was sacked by Jason Babin for a 9-yard loss, forcing a fumble and then a 15-yard return by Sen’Derrick Marks moved the ball to the Browns’ 18 with five seconds left. Just enough time for Scobee to hit a field goal as time expired to make it 20-14.

Chudzinski was asked why he didn’t run out the clock after the first turnover allowed the Jaguars to tie the game.

“I thought we had enough time and we actually put together a first down,” he said. “We moved the ball into a position I thought we’d get a chance to potentially get a field goal and have something there going on at the end of the half. That’s the way we’ve been. We’re going to be aggressive in those situations and give our guys a chance to be able to make plays.”

Weeden started the game 7-of-10 for 142 yards and a touchdown before his collapse. By halftime, his statistics were 12-of-20 for 176 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions and a fumble and a 65.8 rating. Weeden finished the game with good statistics that didn’t tell the whole story as he was 24-of-40 for 370 yards with three touchdowns, two interceptions and a lost fumble. He was sacked three times and finished with a rating of 94.8.

The offense seemed to regroup at the half and came out and put 80-yard drive capped by a four-yard touchdown pass from Weeden to Little to give the Browns a 21-20 lead. Weeden was 3-of-4 for 37 yards and a touchdown on the drive.The Browns offense moved the ball into Jacksonville territory on their next two possessions, but a missed field goal and penalties prevented them from scoring.  

However, with 7:47 left in the game and the Browns clinging to a 21-20 lead, the Browns started on their 14. On first down, Alex Mack snapped the ball over Weeden’s head and into the end zone. Weeden kicked the ball out of the end zone for a safety and the Browns trailed 22-21. After the free kick, the Jaguars started at the Browns’ 43 and were able to move to the seven before Scobee kicked a 25-yard field goal to make the score 25-21.

Chudzinski explained why Weeden kicked the ball out of the end zone.

“It was just a bad snap over (Weeden’s) head and a lot of times, you don’t know where the defenders are coming from,” Chudzinski said. “Taking a safety is what you would do in that case, with the ball rolling around back there in the end zone.”

After a penalty on the kickoff return, the Browns started their next possession on their own five-yard line. Weeden threw a pass near the 30 and Josh Gordon raced the distance for a 95-yard touchdown. On that play, Gordon set a new team record of 261 receiving yards in a game (He set the previous record last week against the Steelers with 237 yards).

The Browns score came with 3:55 to play and gave them a 28-25 lead.

However, with all of the offensive blunders, the defense had a chance to win the game but was unable to stop the Jaguars as they marched for the game-winning touchdown.

“I was disappointed,” Jabaal Sheard said. “We didn’t finish strong, and as a good defense that’s trying to be a top defense, you have to make plays at that time in the game. We did not do a good job on defense. We didn’t sack the quarterback and we didn’t take advantage of our opportunities.”


— Haden intercepted a pass intended for Shorts with 11:45 left in the first half and returned it  13 yards to the Jaguars’ 47. It was his fourth interception of the season but overshadowed by Shorts’ game winner.

Haden was emotional after the game and blamed himself for the loss.

“That’s like my brother,” safety Tashaun Gipson said. “For him to be down on himself after he played a game like he did and what he meant for the defense, it’s kind of a terrible feeling for him to be so down on himself. He holds himself to a higher standard feeling like he is one of the elite cornerbacks in the game. It’s definitely going to be tough for him, I’m right behind him and I know the field. He’d make that play 10 times out of 10 if it happened again.”

Haden had three tackles, one pass broken up and an interception.

— Gordon came back from his record setting day last week against the Steelers where he caught 14 passes for 237 yards with a 10-catch, 261-yard game, breaking his own franchise record. He caught a 42-yard pass to the Jaguars’ 5 on the first offensive play to set up a one-yard touchdown run by RB Willis McGahee.

Gordon is the first Browns receiver to go over 1,000 yards since WR Braylon Edwards and TE Kellen Winslow did so in 2007. Gordon caught a 23-yard pass on the second series to give him 65 yards in the first quarter. Gordon had six receptions for 125 yards in the first half, including a touchdown. Gordon was the first Browns receiver to go over 100 yards in three straight games since Gary Collins (1965) and Webster Slaughter (1989) did so. He is the first NFL receiver to post back-to-back 200 yards receiving yards in games.

Gordon was hit in the head on the first drive of the third quarter and taken to the locker room for evaluation of a head injury. He caught a 24-yard pass on the drive and had seven receptions for 149 yards and a score before leaving the game. Gordon returned with 1:03 left in the third quarter and caught a 95-yard touchdown pass.

“He’s making plays and showing the improvement he’s making and the type of player that he can be,” Chudzinski said. “He continues to work at it and hopefully continues to develop. With the attitude he’s taken, I think his future is bright.”

Gordon now leads the Browns with 64 receptions for 1,249 yards and seven touchdowns. TE Jordan Cameron has 63 receptions. Cameron caught four passes for 43 yards.

— McGahee scored on a one-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, only the Browns second rushing touchdown of the season.

McGahee has both of them from one-yard out. McGahee had 14 carries for 57 yards and a score. He also caught two passes for 14 yards. The Browns rushed for 97 yards (3.2 avg.) for the game. The Jaguars came into the game as the 32nd ranked defense against the run.

— The Browns had two sacks after having none in the previous two games. LB Jabaal Sheard and DL Ahtyba Rubin sacked QB Chad Henne in the first half. LB Barkevious Mingo had five tackles, one QB hurry and one pass batted down. DB T.J. Ward led the Browns with 7 tackleskkIt was the first sacks by the Browns in three games.

— LB Eric Martin suffered a head injury in the first quarter and did not return. LB Brandon Magee injured his chest. It was announced after the game by a team spokesman that Weeden suffered a concussion when he experienced symptoms after the game.

— QB Alex Tanney was active and the backup for Weeden. Tanney wears No. 7, while TE Andre Smith is 87. Both were active after being signed this week. Smith went in the first quarter as a blocking tight end on a third down and McGahee ran to his side for a six-yard gain and first down on third-and-one.

Chudzinski was asked if he considered using Tanney after Weeden’s three turnovers.

“Just time to task,” he said. “A couple of days, putting him in that situation, we were very limited in what we had in the package that we had with him and just felt that coming out of that second half, I think the guys had regrouped. They showed it in that first drive coming down.

With the uncertainty of the concussions to QB Jason Campbell and Weeden, Chudzinski was asked if he will play next week.

“The more time he gets and the more practice he gets, obviously, he’ll be more exposed to the offense and be able to run more offense.”

— Elyria High School product TE Danny Noble recovered a fumble on the first play. Shorts, from Collinwood High School in Cleveland and Mount Union in Alliance, was a captain and he caught the game-winning touchdown with 40 seconds to play. He finished with six catches for 64 yards and a touchdown.

“I can’t really put it into words, its a dream come true,” Shorts said. “For that play to happen in this game, in that situation and in the home town.”

— Former Browns great RB Greg Pruitt was the honorary captain along with OL Joe Thomas and LB D’Qwell Jackson. RB Chris Ogbonnaya was the special teams captain.

— LB Darius Eubanks made his first NFL start in place of LB Craig Robertson (knee) and LB Tank Carder (shoulder), who were both inactive. Eubanks finished with six tackles. Other in actives: QB Jason Campbell (concussion), OL Martin Wallace, OL Garrett Gilkey, DL Ishmaa’ily Kitchen and OL Reid Fragel. For Jacksonville: QB Ricky Stanzi, WR Stephen Burton, RB Justin Forsett, CB Jamell Fleming, G Jacques McClendon, WR Jeremy Ebert and DL Jeremy Mincey.