CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – It went from bad to worse Sunday for the Browns in a 12-9 overtime loss to the Tennessee Titans.
The unfathomable happened: Joe Thomas left the game with an injury and his season could be over.
Head coach Hue Jackson decided to take another spin the quarterback merry-go-round by benching DeShone Kizer – again. So much for riding the highs and lows with the rookie but this is what happens when you’re desperately trying to win just 1 game, and save your job.
There just doesn’t seem to be any reason to believe that owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam will be able to keep their word and stay the course with the current regime come January as this season spirals out of control. The Browns remain an embarrassment with the youngest roster in the NFL, which was assembled by EVP Sashi Brown, and they are showing very few signs of improvement under Jackson.
It could be said that the Haslams along with Brown and Jackson should be congratulated. They’ve accomplished what was once believed to be impossible and that was to actually make a perennial 4-12, 5-11 loser even worse. The problem is that if in fact Brown and Jackson are fired, the Haslams will find it to be extremely difficult to replace them because of the irreparable damage they have caused the franchise since taking over in just 5 short years.
What they’ve done to a once great football town and franchise is unforgivable.
Here’s a look at the good, and bad from loss No. 7 on the season and the 22nd in 23 games under Brown and Jackson’s leadership.
– The Early Game plan – After Isaiah Crowell ran twice for 9 yards but was stopped for no gain on third-and-1 on the opening drive, DeShone Kizer completed 6 of his first 7 passes on the second drive for 44 yards thanks to short, quick reads. Unfortunately a holding penalty on tight end Seth DeValve and an illegal hands to the face penalty on Isaiah Crowell torpedoed the drive setting up a second-and-28 that resulted in the second punt of the afternoon. Kizer stuck to the plan until late in the first half when he threw the first of 2 interceptions that led to yet another QB change.
– The defense – Gregg Williams’ unit deserves tremendous credit for their performance Sunday and it is the only facet of the team that shows any signs of improvement. Most importantly they kept the Titans out of the end zone marking the first time since a 24-3 victory over Cincinnati on Nov. 6, 2014 they didn’t give up a TD and they forced 5 field goal attempts instead. Allowing 12 points in a game that goes to overtime should result in a win. Christian Kirksey finished with a career-high 17 tackles and he forced a fumble. Titans running backs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry were held to 72 yards combined rushing on 31 attempts. Quarterback Marcus Mariota totaled 203 yards passing. Can’t blame the defense this week.
– Sack Machine – Myles Garrett recorded a sack in his third consecutive game giving him 4 on the season to lead the team. Garrett joins Oakland defensive tackle Tommy Kelly (2004) and Cleveland linebacker Barkevious Mingo (2013) as the only NFL players since 2004 to record at least 1 sack in each of their first 3 NFL games. Garrett is the first Browns rookie to record a sack in 3 consecutive games since defensive lineman Jabaal Sheard in 2011 and the first rookie No. 1 overall pick to do so since defensive lineman Mario Williams in 2006.
– Zane Gonzalez – After missing 3 straight field goals earlier this season, Gonzalez has redeemed himself. He made all 3 kicks Sunday including the game-tying 54-yard kick with less than a minute to play that tied the game at 9 and forced overtime. Gonzalez also continues to prevent kickoff returns by kicking deep enough to force touchbacks. He had 4 more touchbacks forced Sunday.
– Iron Man Down – Left tackle Joe Thomas leaving the game following a 3-yard run with 5:44 left in the third quarter is quite possibly the worst thing to happen Sunday. There are not enough superlatives for Thomas. Not only did his incredible snaps streak come to an end at 10,363 but he could be lost for the season after suffering what is believed to be a torn left triceps. Thomas will have an MRI Monday. For years Thomas served as the lone stable face of a franchise that has only won 48 games since he was drafted third overall in 2007.
– That’s a First – Jackson, for whatever reason, declined a 15-yard facemask penalty that would’ve set up a third-and-16. Instead he opted for fourth-and-1 but defensive tackle Danny Shelton was offsides to give the Titans a fresh set of downs. Cleveland’s defense held and forced the Titans to kick a 43-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead. Jackson might be the first coach in history dumb enough to decline a 15-yard penalty. His excuse was just as dumbfounding.
“I thought in that situation they would go kick [a field goal] on fourth down,” Jackson said. “They went for it, they made it, they kept going and our defense rose up and held them to three. That is what the decision was about. We thought they would kick.”
– The Penalties – Goodness gracious, flags flew everywhere – again. The Browns were offsides on the opening kickoff. Rookie defensive end Myles Garrett was flagged for being offsides 3 times, Danny Shelton turned a fourth-and-1 into a free first down and the team was hit 12 times for a total of 81 yards. On the season the Browns have served up 24 first downs via penalty and been flagged 58 times in 7 games.
“We are undisciplined,” Jackson said. “That is a direct reflection of me, and it disappoints me to no end. Some of them we get called and I am just going to say it, I am shocked.”
– Spin The QB Carousel – Kizer threw his NFL-leading 10th interception on the final drive of the first half with 30 seconds left as he overshot receiver Rashard Higgins. The ball was picked off by Titans free safety Kevin Byard at the 7 and returned 28 yards out to the 35. Kizer opened the second half by getting picked again by Byard – No. 11 on the season – looking for receiver Bryce Treggs on a cross which led to him being benched in favor of Cody Kessler. Jackson will for the third straight week “look at the tape” and then decide who his starting quarterback will be.
Counting Ls – The Browns are 0-7 for the second straight year and fourth time in franchise history (0-7 1999, 0-9 1975 and 0-14 in 2016), Jackson and Brown are 1-22, the Browns are 4-40 since starting the 2014 season 7-4, the Haslams are 15-56 since 2013 and the franchise is 19-61 since they closed on the acquisition of a majority stake in the team on Oct. 25, 2012.