CLEVELAND — Heartbreak and Cleveland Browns season openers. They just go hand-in-hand, don’t they?
When D’Qwell Jackson returned an interception 27 yards with 13:59 remaining in the game, Phil Dawson kicked an extra point to put the Browns ahead by six points.
Every Browns fan thought the same thing.
“Final: Eagles 17, Browns 16.”
They were right. Final: Eagles 17, Browns 16.
Nine minutes after the Browns took the lead on Jackson’s pick-six, Michael Vick connected with tight end Clay Harbor on a four-yard touchdown pass, which capped a 16-play, 91-yard drive.
That’s 1-13 in openers for the Browns since 1999. Sunday’s game was another heartbreaking season-opening home defeat thrown on top of the pile tough-to-swallow losses to begin a season.
While the players may be slightly different, the story has remained the same.
“What happened in the past happened in the past,” Jackson said. “I don’t have the time to think about it. We lost a tough one, but we’re close. You can learn just as much from losing as winning.”
Browns fans must all have their doctorate in football.
Defensively, the Browns were brilliant. Vick threw four interceptions and was sacked twice. The Eagles vaunted offense looked pedestrian.
More importantly, the Browns forced turnovers. Five in all, but the offense could only muster nine points off those five turnovers.
“The Eagles are a good football team,” Jackson said. “Some people have them playing in the Super Bowl. We had a chance to win toward the end, they made a play and we didn’t. We still have a lot to learn from moving forward. You hate to lose but there is a lot of positives we can take out of it.”
The Browns’ players want to take positives from this game and they should. With 15 games remaining, there is still plenty of football to be played. Yet for Browns’ fans, it’s hard to find the positives from this loss. Oh, and unlike Jackson, they have time to think about the heartbreaks of the past.
There have just been so many.
In 2001 and 2003, the Browns lost openers 9-6 to the Seattle Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts on field goals in the game’s final seconds.
In 2002, Dwyane Rudd’s helmet toss on what was supposedly the game’s final play allowed the Kansas City Chiefs one more play. Morten Anderson kicked a 30-yard field goal and the Chiefs won 40-39.
In 2007, the Pittsburgh Steelers blew out the Browns 34-7. The next day the Browns starting quarterback, Charlie Frye, was cut.
Last season, the Browns led the Bengals 17-13. Starting quarterback Andy Dalton was sidelined with an injury, but with 4:31 left in the game, backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski caught the Browns defense napping coming out of the huddle and hit rookie wide receiver A.J. Green for a 41-yard touchdown pass.
And then there was this year’s debacle.
As well as the defense played, it just wasn’t the offense’s day. Trent Richardson averaged 2.1 yards per carry. Brandon Weeden finished with four interceptions and a 5.1 quarterback rating.
Weeden’s day began with a bad omen. After the offense was introduced in pregame, Weeden did what he always does before the start of a game, and that’s play catch on the 35- or 40-yard line before the coin toss.
“Next thing I know there’s a 100-yard flag coming at me,” Weeden said.
Weeden dropped to the ground on his hands and knees, as the flag was unfurled over top of him.
“I looked at my equipment manager and said, ‘This sucks,’” Weeden said.
Fittingly, that’s a phrase that has been used in Cleveland on many an opening day, this year included.