CLEVELAND — In the end, the negative plays were aplenty and highlighted by a Chansi Stuckey fumble, a questionable offensive series late in overtime and questionable pass defense that led to the Jets winning 26-20.
At 3-6, the Browns and their fans can kiss the playoff talk good-bye. But in the long run, that may be a positive.
In Cleveland, hope for the future has grown tiresome. The constant coaching turnover, the ineffective draft classes, the poor on-field play leading to loss after loss has resulted in the Browns being known as an NFL doormat for more than a decade.
Two consecutive wins entering Sunday provided the club and its fans hope those days are over. On Sunday, in front of 66,449 fans buzzing with excitement, the Browns reputation preceded them. They lost, again.
Despite the loss, those tiresome Sundays may be over.
Why? Here’s why: Trailing 20-13 with 2:42 remaining in the game, the Browns offense took over at its own 41-yard-line. In the second half, the Browns offense possessed the ball for only four-and-a-half minutes. The Jets offense dominated the time of possession and the game. The Browns looked down and out. They needed a touchdown against the Jets’ defense, which is one of the best in the NFL.
“I told the guys to look in my eyes and believe,” Browns quarterback Colt McCoy said. “I said we’ll go down and score, tie it up and win it in overtime. Take one play at a time and let’s not do anything special. Let’s just play. For the most part we marched down and scored.”
McCoy led the Browns on a 10-play, 59-yard drive that lasted 1:58 and ended with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Mohamed Massaquoi, tied the game at 20 and forced overtime.
“This Jets defense is tough across the board,” Browns coach Eric Mangini said. “They bring multiple looks and they’re good against the run and the way he brought the team down and scored was great. In overtime, we were moving the ball before the fumble. We were right there on the fringe of a field goal.”
In overtime, the Browns were close to pulling off their third consecutive victory. Close. Chansi Stuckey fumbled at the Jets 32-yard-line with 10:04 left in overtime. The Browns would not have another scoring opportunity.
“We lost, that’s the bottom line,” McCoy said. “It was huge for us (to tie the game), but the thing we learned is once we have the momentum we’ve got to find a way to carry it over and win the game.”
McCoy finished 18-for-31 passing for 205 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. He’s played three games without an interception and is 2-2 as a starter.
“It’s unreal a rookie comes in and plays they way he does,” Browns defensive back Sheldon Brown said. “I watch him every day in practice and he continuously is getting better.”
The Browns have been competitive games in most games, but have not won them on a consistent basis. This team still needs more talent. This team still needs more experience. This team, frankly, needs more days like Sunday.
A playoff push this season would have been fool’s gold. Remember 2007?
“Each week I’m feeling more confident and comfortable,” McCoy said. “We can take away from today is that we never gave up and we continued to fight. We never though we were going to lose the game. That’s huge for us. That’s how it should be.”
The Browns have eight games remaining and six or seven wins would be a welcomed finish and a springboard to, yes, next season. But it will be an offseason with one position already established: quarterback.
“I’m really impressed with Colt,” Mangini said. “He’s shown great poise under pressure against a lot of outstanding defensive schemes and a lot of outstanding defensive personnel. For a young guy, he has been really impressive.”
Once again, the Browns’ downtrodden fan base is staring down another losing season. Although, it may be the final losing season for a long, long time.
“I feel like there were things I could have done better,” McCoy said. “I should have made plays when it counted especially in overtime. I stand up here and I take the blame. I was the one leading it and I needed to make more plays.”
And he should have an opportunity to lead and to make those plays for the foreseeable future.