Browns hit new low after loss to Bills
CLEVELAND -- It has reached this point with the Cleveland Browns -- the storied franchise, the one with the passionate fan base and glowing tradition.
Where to start?
Where to start when trying to explain this team that now has lost three in a row to start the season and nine in a row overall? To explain this team that laid an egg in a game that many thought was one of its best chances to win this season?
Perhaps at this scene: With Browns legends and three Hall of Famers looking on, the Buffalo defense stood on the field with about two minutes left and led their fans in cheers.
And they were the only voices heard.
This is where the Browns are, standing and listening while a visiting team takes over their stadium and leads the out-of-town fans in cheers.
"That pissed me off," said wide receiver Greg Little. "And I take full responsibility for it happening. You can only blame the players on the field, and I think we got to do more to change that."
"I don't like it," linebacker D'Qwell Jackson said. "I don't like it whatsoever. I've been here for a long time and I've never experienced that. And it's embarrassing. It's frustrating and it's embarrassing. It's a shame that we weren't able to put out a better effort than we did."
A shame might be the mildest word. Where to start in this loss that made the Browns one of only three NFL teams to be winless in three weeks -- with Baltimore and the Giants up next?
What caused this loss?
Check a box:
-- Starting a game with two three-and-outs, two long returns by the Bills on punts and two touchdown drives by Buffalo. Had C.J. Spiller not left the game with an injured shoulder in the third drive, the Bills seemed headed to a bigger win.
-- Then there's the Bills defensive front, which dominated Cleveland's. The Browns ran for 33 yards. Total. Thirty-three yards. And the Bills rushed four all day and sacked Brandon Weeden four times and knocked down two passes.
-- Then there's dropped passes, two on third down. One was by Little, who is making this an art form, and another by rookie Travis Benjamin, who did bounce back to catch a touchdown pass.
-- There were several good throws by Brandon Weeden, who after a certain amount of time had to throw almost every down because the Browns couldn't run. But there were a couple misses deep, a drop and poor routes by Josh Gordon and only 14 points on the scoreboard.
-- There were painful -- and questionable penalties -- and in the fourth quarter there were interceptions that sealed the Bills win.
Coach Pat Shurmur said after the game that the Browns talk about team wins, but it has sure been a long, long time since he has. The Browns have lost nine in a row, 12 of 13 and Shurmur in one-plus season has gone 4-15.
"We just didn't get it done," Shurmur said. "There's no magical answer sometimes, other than we didn't get it done."
This one seemed especially bitter to take for everyone -- the players, the coach, the fans. Everyone seemed like they got bulldozed. Perhaps because when a team starts 0-3, it knows its die is cast and the season is about playing for pride.
Or because the Browns own the longest losing streak in the NFL.
Or because Buffalo had not won a road game in more than a year, losing eight in a row by an average of 18.6 points.
Or because there was never a sense of hope that the Browns would come back, not even after they cut the lead to 17-14. When it was extended to 24-14, there was no excitement in the stadium. And when Weeden threw an interception with 4:21 left on a pass intended for Gordon -- was he in the right spot? -- the fans headed for the exits.
The Bills won by 10 while kneeling down inside the Browns 5 after an interception, then celebrated with their fans as if they had won a division title.
"BILLS FANS TOOK OVER THE DAWG POUND!" Buffalo linebacker Bryan Scott posted on Twitter. "Last series, nothing but Bills jerseys in the stands!! I LOVE IT!!!!"
Browns players and coaches know this development is on them, that they have to give the fans something to cheer about. Fans show up year after year, no matter how many promises turn out to be empty. Optimism rages every April, but by October the reality overwhelms.
This season started with optimism about a new quarterback and running back, and after a bad opener the offense looked good in Week 2. The same offense started Week 3 with two three-and-outs, and went 0-for-5 on third downs in the first half.
Meanwhile, new owner Jimmy Haslam made an appearance during the CBS broadcast, standing in the booth talking about his plans. Haslam has yet to be confirmed, but there he was.
Coincidentally, or not, also present super-agent Bob Lamonte, who represents team president Mike Holmgren, general manager Tom Heckert and Shurmur.
After the news conference, Lamonte ducked into the coach's office.
Baltimore awaits in four days.