Lost opportunities in Jacksonville
It was a day of misses for the Browns on Sunday, missed opportunities, missing playmakers and missed tackles as, for the second week in a row, the Browns learned the hard way that you have to play the game for the full 60 minutes to win in the NFL, dropping another close game, this time to Jacksonville, 24-20.
The Browns forced six turnovers but somehow only managed to convert those into 10 points – and only three of them on offense as the team went three-and-out on four consecutive drives following turnovers.
The Jaguars turned the ball over on five consecutive drives in the second half but, because the Browns were unable to deliver the knockout blow in the second half, the Jaguars hung around and, with a little over a minute left, disaster hit.
With the Browns holding onto a three-point lead Maurice Jones-Drew took a screen pass 75 yards to the one-yard line. Rather than, I don’t know, actually tackling Jones-Drew, defensive back Sheldon Brown tried to strip the ball which allowed Jones-Drew to break through for the big gain.
Jones-Drew eventually scored and the Browns, out of timeouts, saw a last-minute rally die when Colt McCoy fired a pass to Ben Watson, only for the ball to bounce off Watson and into the hands of a Jacksonville defender.
So just like last week, the defense played well but one mistake was enough to keep the Browns out of the win column.
This was a tough one, in some ways even tougher than the Jets loss. The Browns had every opportunity to put the Jaguars away in the second half but couldn’t get it done.
For the first time since the Pittsburgh game, McCoy looked like a rookie quarterback as he was sacked a ridiculous six times and never seemed to be able to get into a rhythm.
The offensive line had probably its worst day of the year (John St. Clair was back in the lineup – coincidence? Discuss) as they couldn’t protect McCoy and were never able to get the running game going, even though they were facing a defense that entered the game ranked 28th overall.
The Browns clearly missed Josh Cribbs as, without him on offense, Peyton Hillis is the only running back the defense has to worry about. The Jaguars were able to focus on Hillis when he was in the game and they held him to 48 yards rushing (2.3 yards per carry). McCoy was the team’s second-leading rusher as Mike Bell was only able to add his customary one carry for one yard.
If Hillis can’t get going the Browns rushing attack is non-existent and that’s becoming a major problem that’s not going to be fixed until next year. It’s not really anyone’s fault; it’s just the reality.
The defense, except for the one broken play, had a huge day: T.J Ward (2), Joe Haden and Abe Elam all had interceptions; Elam recovered a fumble and turned it into a touchdown; Chris Gocong recovered two fumbles; and the Browns recorded four sacks.
But it wasn’t enough … again … some more …
Oh, and did we mention McCoy left the stadium in a walking boot? No word if it was a hand-me-down from Jake Delhomme or Seneca Wallace, but now McCoy is hurt. And Eric Wright hurt his knee on the first series and didn’t return … and Ben Watson injured his right knee and didn’t catch a pass … and Brian Blutarski posted another zero.point.zero day.
It’s all so frustrating because it never should have come to this. No team should lose when it forces turnovers on five consecutive drives in the second half. In fact, teams that have a +5 turnover ratio in a game win 95 percent of the time. But here the Browns are with a 3-7 record after pulling that one off.
This team has now played six games decided by seven points or less and are 1-5 in those games, putting up a total of 17 fourth-quarter points. It’s frustrating, but they are still learning to close out games for the win. It will come, but we sure wish they could accelerate the process.
Maybe the team just doesn’t like playing in Florida, as they have now lost to both Tampa Bay and Jacksonville. That’s not a good sign with a game with the Dolphins in Miami looming on the schedule.
If we’re looking for a bright side in all this, the Browns once again went down fighting. They marched down the field after Jones-Drew’s late score and McCoy was firing for Watson who was on the five-yard line at the end of the game. That has to count for something, yes?
And Carolina, everyone’s favorite whipping boy is coming to town next week.
But this one is definitely going to linger for a while.