Veteran running back Jamal Lewis, closing in on 10,000 yards for his career, says one reason the Browns have lost two straight games is because some of his teammates go into cruise control before the game is secured.
The Browns blew a 14-point lead to the Ravens and lost, 37-27. That defeat resulted in quarterback Derek Anderson being benched. Then they blew a 23-10 lead and lost to the Broncos, 34-30.
If Lewis is correct, the Browns at least have time to correct the problem. They were beaten by the Broncos on Nov. 6 and don't play again until they meet the Bills in Buffalo on Nov. 17.
"It looked to me like some people called it quits when we were up," Lewis said after losing to the Broncos. "You can't do that. You have to finish. Denver's back was to the wall just like ours is to the wall. But they came out and played good football. They were down. They kept their heads up, stayed poised and finished.
"This as frustrated as I've been in however many years I've been playing. I've never seen anything like it. I'm not cut from this kind of cloth. I play physical football. I come out here and give it my all. I give it my all all week. This is the NFL. You can't call it quits until the game is over."
Lewis is not holding back in his criticism. The Browns, 3-6, have to go undefeated in the last seven games to match their record of last season. Playoff hopes that were bright in training camp have faded to black.
"Some people need to check their egos at the door and find some heart to come out here and play hard," Lewis said darkly. "This is a man's game. The way we went out and played two weeks in a row, finishing the same kind of way, it's just not there. Some men around here need to check themselves. Straight up. That's it."
Coach Romeo Crennel is more diplomatic. He disagreed about players quitting, although he has been critical of his team for not finishing games. Instead, he blamed a rash of injuries in training camp and preseason for ongoing problems.
"We haven't been as consistent as we need to be," Crennel said. "I think it goes back to training camp when we lost some key people to injuries. We haven't totally recovered from that yet."
Crennel was referring to the preseason game in the Meadowlands Aug. 18 when the Browns lost quarterback Derek Anderson (concussion), Lewis (hamstring), kick returner Josh Cribbs (ankle), safety Brodney Pool (concussion) and linebacker Willie McGinest (groin) in a 37-34 preseason loss to the Giants.
Prior to that game, Braylon Edwards was spiked by teammate Donte Stallworth while running sprints Aug. 9. Stallworth pulled a quadriceps in pregame warm-ups before the opener and missed the first four games. Linebacker Antwan Peek (patellar tendon) and end Robaire Smith (Achilles tendon) are on injured reserve.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Sometimes we make progress on one side of the ball and then for whatever reason the other side of the ball drops down. We have to get the whole team to be consistent." -- Coach Romeo Crennel, on the struggling Browns.
BY THE NUMBERS: 564 -- Yards allowed by the Browns in the 34-30 loss to Denver. It is the third-highest total by an opponent in Browns history.
--QB Brady Quinn threw two touchdown passes and had a 104.3 passer rating in his first NFL start.
--TE Kellen Winslow caught 10 passes for 111 yards. In the fourth quarter, he was called for offensive pass interference, turned the ball over on a fumble and dropped a fourth-down pass with 50 seconds left.
--KR Josh Cribbs returned five kicks for 135 yards.
--CB Brandon McDonald gave up a 93-yard touchdown pass to Eddie Royal and an 11-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall.
--LB Kamerion Wimbley got his second sack of the season when he tackled Jay Cutler for a 6-yard loss.