CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Not even Joe Thomas can survive this miserable season.
The Browns’ iron man left tackle left the field for the first time in his NFL career after suffering a left triceps injury ending his afternoon and his consecutive snaps streak at 10,363 with 5:44 left in the third quarter before the Browns fell in overtime to the Tennessee Titans 12-9.
“We all know how tough Joe is,” Browns head coach Hue Jackson said. “If there is any chance he could have been out there, he would have so obviously, it is pretty serious.”
Prior to the injury Thomas had not missed a single offensive snap since being drafted third overall in the 2007 NFL Draft. And now the future of the lone beacon of stability and reliability for a franchise that is constantly in turmoil is in question.
“I kind of thought he was super human or something where nothing could happen to him just how consistent and anytime he ever got rolled up or something he would always pop back up,” left guard Joel Bitonio said. “You knew he was in pain the way he sounded out there. It was tough. There were about 30 seconds there you kind of almost wanted to tear up. It was surreal, but we had to go back out there and finish the game.”
Thomas went to the sideline medical tent before jogging to the locker room with trainers to be further examined and evaluated. He left FirstEnergy Stadium with his left arm in a sling and he said that he will have an MRI Monday.
“I promised him that when he is back, if he is back, that we are going to get this thing figured out because he is Cleveland Browns football,” Jackson said. “He is a guy that keeps us all going and moving forward. We owe him more than what we have given him thus far. That is for sure.”
Spencer Drango got the unenviable task of having to replace Thomas for the remainder of the game.
“I think they tested me for sure, new guy coming in,” Drango said. “I figured out I was going to get (Titans OLB Brian) Orakpo all game, and he did a great job. He has a heck of a bull-rush. I figured I was going to see that just to keep testing it. He got me once. I need to sit down a little bit more and adjust it after that.”
Jackson also benched DeShone Kizer for the second consecutive start for the rookie quarterback after he threw interceptions on back-to-back possessions to end the first half and to begin the second half. Titans free safety Kevin Byard victimized Kizer on both, which were poorly thrown.
Kizer completed 12 of 20 passes for 114 yards with the 2 interceptions and a 36.2 rating before being benched.
“I am sure it is disappointing. I am sure he doesn’t want the yoyo, but it goes both ways,” Jackson said. “Developing quarterbacks, they still have to do what you asked them to do. In that process of developing a quarterback, I want them to not turn the ball over.”
Cody Kessler, elevated this week to the backup role after Kevin Hogan suffered bruised ribs in his start at Houston – a 33-17 loss to the Texans – took over for Kizer and engineered a 10-play, 70 yard drive that led to a Zane Gonzalez 47-yard field goal to tie the game at 6.
Kessler started 7 of 10 for 97 yards before he overthrew tight end David Njoku over the middle and Byard came away with his third interception of the day in the fourth quarter.
Kessler, who finished 10 of 19 for 121 yards with an interception and 50.5 rating, was able to move the Browns into position with less than a minute to play to give rookie kicker Zane Gonzalez a chance to make a 54-yarder to tie the game again at 9 and force overtime.
Titans kicker Ryan Succop made 4 of 5 attempts, including the game winner from 47 yards with 1:54 left in OT to win it for Tennessee.
The Browns fell to 0-7 for the fourth time in franchise history – 0-7 in 1999, 0-9 in 1975 and 0-14 in 2016 – while Jackson fell to 1-22 as head coach in Cleveland.