CLEVELAND (AP) — The fans booed and left early. The winning streak came to an end. The playoffs are no longer possible.
This December will end like so many before it in Cleveland.
The Browns will have another losing season.
Unable to take advantage of quarterback Robert Griffin III’s absence, the Browns couldn’t stop rookie Kirk Cousins and made too many mistakes in a 38-21 loss Sunday to the Washington Redskins, who won their fifth straight game and moved into a tie for first in the NFC East with New York.
With a chance to close their home schedule with a win, the Browns (5-9) fell flat.
Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden threw two costly interceptions, running back Trent Richardson couldn’t find many holes and Cleveland’s defense was taken apart by Cousins, who made his first career start in place of an injured Griffin.
“We let ourselves down, and we let the whole city of Cleveland down,” said Richardson, who rushed for two TDs and second-guessed coach Pat Shurmur’s play calling. “This was the last home game. We were supposed to go out with a blast. This was a big ballgame for us and we didn’t do what we were supposed to do.”
The Redskins decided one game without RG3 couldn’t hurt. He disagreed, but after Cousins kept Washington’s winning streak and playoff hopes intact, Griffin understood.
First place has him feeling better.
Cousins threw for 329 yards and threw two touchdown passes to Leonard Hankerson and the Redskins (8-6) barely missed a beat without the talented and multi-dimensional Griffin, who sat out with a sprained right knee and wasn’t upset about having to stand on the sideline and watch his teammates play.
“I was not happy with the decision,” said Griffin, who was informed Saturday night of the plan to start Cousins. “That’s the decision they went with and I respect that. It doesn’t mean I have to necessarily like it. I feel like I could have played this week, next week, the week after. But that’s not my decision.”
The Browns were a long shot to make the playoffs. Riding a three-game winning streak, they needed to win their last three and would have required several other teams to lose to have any chance at making the postseason for just the second time since 1999. But that’s all over now, and Shurmur’s days in Cleveland could be dwindling quickly.
By Jan. 1, the Browns may need a new coach, staff, general manager and several prominent players could be headed elsewhere as new owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner evaluate the franchise.
It seems to be the same story in Cleveland every year.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty,” linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said.
Following the game, Richardson criticized Shurmur for not staying with his game plan.
“We should’ve stuck with it,” he said. “But we didn’t and we tried to go do some other stuff, and the outcome came in a different way. When we did do it, it worked. So we got away from it, and the outcome comes as an ‘L.’”
Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden struggled from the outset. He went 21 of 35 for 244 yards and two picks, both leading to Washington TDs.
Weeden’s performance will certainly renew debate over whether he’s the quarterback of the future. He certainly didn’t look like it against the Redskins.
“It’s frustrating,” Weeden said. “We put ourselves in a hole so early in the year to where we were having to play catch up. These last few games were almost like playoff games because we’re making pushes. It’s upsetting. We wanted to give our fans a better final game at home and keep this momentum going.”
Shurmur refused to say Weeden suffered a setback.
“I don’t think it was his best game, but I think that can be said for all of us,” Shurmur said.
Richardson’s second TD run gave the Browns a 14-10 lead with 1:11 left before halftime. Earlier, he broke Hall of Famer Jim Brown’s 55-year-old team rookie record for rushing TDs.
“It means a lot, but we still lost,” Richardson said. “So it doesn’t mean nothing — for real. In the long run, I’m going to sit back and think about it, but right now, I’ve got a 24-hour rule. I’m not down about this game, but I’m very upset about this game. So it really didn’t mean as much without that ‘W.’”
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