With 7 minutes, 19 seconds remaining in the third quarter Sunday, the Cleveland Browns offense huddled on the field awaiting the end of a television time out.
Linebacker L.J. Fort just intercepted Michael Vick. The Browns, trailing 10-3, faced first and 10 at the Eagles’ 43-yard line.
Browns defensive lineman Juqua Parker took this opportunity to run onto the field, sans helmet, and yell some encouraging words to the struggling offense.
On first down, Brandon Weeden fumbled the handoff.
Although the Browns recovered and would kick a field goal five plays later, it was a microcosm of the opener.
The defense brought intensity and made plays while the offense fumbled away golden opportunities. Dating back to last season, this has become a trend. Dare we say, “identity?”
Browns veteran linebacker Scott Fujita, who didn’t play because of an injury, called the team’s defensive effort “unbelievable.” It was. Against the vaunted Philadelphia offense, the Browns defense had 12 passes defended, 11 quarterback hits, four interceptions, two sacks and two forced fumbles and D’Qwell Jackson returned one of those interceptions for a touchdown.
“We have 15 more weeks and take the positives out of this game,” Jackson said. “It’s early and we still have a lot to learn from the tape and just move forward.”
For all the good the Browns defense did, they still couldn’t stop the run and make a play when they needed it the most.
LeSean McCoy gashed the Browns defense for 110 yards rushing on 20 carries (5.5) average. In all, the Eagles had 150 yards rushing on 30 carries.
On what proved to be the game-winning drive, Vick was 6-for-12 passing for 55 yards, as he marched the Eagles 91 yards in 16 plays. On Vick’s 11th attempt, Fort had a game-sealing interception slip through his hands in the end zone.
“I read it perfectly,” Fort said. “I should have made that play. Definitely.”
The Browns are now 0-1 and 15 games remain. So how do you view your water glasses?
“I can teach the younger guys that we have 15 more weeks and take the positives out of this game,” he said. “It’s early and we still have a lot to learn from the tape and just move forward.”
Offensively, last season was bad, but Sunday was putrid. Time and time again, the Browns defense made a play and put the offense in position to get points. Brandon Weeden’s QB rating was 5.1. Trent Richardson averaged 2.1 yards per carry. The offense mustered only 12 first downs and three field goals.
“Unfortunately, we can’t do anything about (the loss),” Weeden said. “It stings. It’s going to sting for a few days. Part of my makeup is that I have a pretty short memory and I’m not going to let anything get to me. I’m going to continue to work, bust my tail and give this team a chance to win.”
The defense played great and the offense — led by three rookies and three second-year players — can’t get much worse, right?
“A first game loss is only fatal if we let it be,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said on Monday. “That’s it. That’s the story. There are no moral victories. It’s very simple. I wish I could give you something you write more than a couple lines, but it’s very simple. You move on, you make the corrections and you do everything you can to get better and put that into action against your next opponent. That’s just really the way it is. That’s the way our world works.”