CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – The Cleveland Browns could be 3-1.
That’s not a typo, they really could be. But the reality is that youth, inexperience, lack of depth and critical mistakes down the stretch have cost them in each of the last 3 weeks and led to what they are and that is 0-4.
The Browns held a 20-0 lead over the Ravens at home and lost 25-20, missed a 46-yard field goal as time expired in regulation and lost 30-24 in overtime in Miami. Sunday afternoon they lead 20-17 with the ball at the 9 and Washington on the ropes before 3 second half turnovers in 3 straight possessions helped to cave in the roof yet again.
It was yet another woulda, coulda shoulda Sunday.
Despite a fourth straight loss there were some positives to come out of Sundays game.
– Running back Isaiah Crowell was sensational once again: 5 carries, 112 yards and a touchdown. It is Crowell’s second 100-yard game in 3 weeks and his 386 rushing yards are the most by a Brown through the first 4 games of a season since Hall of Famer Jim Brown had 476 in 1965.
– After falling behind 14-0, the Browns went on a 20-3 run to take a 20-17 lead late into the third quarter.
– Kicker Cody Parkey made all 4 of his kicks Sunday, 2 PATs and a pair of field goals – from 51 to tie the game at 17 before halftime and 45 yards away that gave them a 20-17 advantage. Parkey also saw 3 of his 4 kickoffs result in touchbacks.
– Third-round pick Cody Kessler might be the best third-string quarterback the Browns have been forced to throw to the wolves in 18 seasons. Kessler did nothing to embarrass himself again Sunday completing 28 of 40 passes for 223 yards, his first NFL touchdown and an interception. The pick thrown by Kessler came in the fourth quarter.
– A trio of defenders stood out once again Sunday. Nickelback Jamar Taylor recorded his second interception in as many games and the Browns were able to capitalize on the turnover and tie the game at 14. Linebacker Cam Johnson, who was signed yesterday off Arizona’s practice squad, recorded his first two career sacks. He is the first Brown with two sacks in a game since Nate Orchard, who was placed on injured reserve Saturday, on Dec. 13, 2015. Rookie cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun, who had a pick-6 last week in Miami, recorded his first career sack.
– Terrelle Pryor started strong in the first half working against Washington cornerback Josh Norman. Pryor caught all 4 of his targets – including his first NFL touchdown – for 42 yards and even drew a pass interference penalty against Norman but only caught 1 of 5 second half targets for an additional 4 yards. Pryor still leads the team this season with 19 receptions for 290 yards and any questions about his transition have been quashed quickly.
– The Browns have outscored opponents 57-52 in the fist half but have been outscored 63-17 in the second half/OT through the first 4 games.
Now to the really bad news.
– Malcolm Johnson’s fumble with just over a minute left in the third quarter inside the 10 started the avalanche. Leading by 3 and driving to go up at least by 6, if not 10, Johnson dropped his first NFL carry. Washington recovered, the Browns did not. It was an awful time for Hue Jackson to give Johnson his first carry but Isaiah Crowell needed a breather and Duke Johnson was getting looked at for a concussion. Even with limited options in the backfield, there had to be a better play alternative at Jackson’s disposal than that one. Then again, if Johnson hangs onto the ball, no one is complaining.
– On the ensuing possession, Browns cornerback Joe Haden was called for pass interference without shoving receiver Desean Jackson and was even looking at the football. But Haden apparently breathed on him, which these days in the NFL is good enough to draw a flag. The penalty gave Washington 21 yards and aided their 10-play 91 yard drive that put them on top for good.
– Duke Johnson’s fumble on the next possession is one that sent fans into a tizzy. Replays showed that the ball was clearly out before Johnson’s knee was down but they didn’t show that Washington actually recovered the loose ball. In fact as the officials pointed in Washington’s direction to indicate possession Johnson held the ball up in the air. The officials maintained that a Washington defender cradled the ball at the bottom of the pile before Johnson came away with it and replay would not overturn the decision. It’s already been that kind of year for the Browns when it comes to calls that don’t go their way.
– Kessler’s fourth quarter interception marked the third straight turnover in as many possessions for the Browns. The throw to Terrelle Pryor was a tad behind him but cornerback Josh Norman also did a good job of positioning himself to make the play and give Kirk Cousins a short field to work with. It took Washington 4 plays to drive home the final nail in the coffin with their fourth red zone touchdown of the afternoon after entering the game just 3 of 14 inside the 20.
– Not related to Sunday’s game in Washington, the Patriots were shut out at home by Buffalo. Bill Belichick and his team will be in quite the foul mood which means more bad news for the Browns who will try to avoid an 0-5 start.