As the Browns are stuck on four wins, having lost three consecutive games in the fourth quarter, the team’s coordinators have decided to place a chunk of the onus on the 53 players who wear orange and brown on every Sunday afternoon. Speaking during their usual Thursday afternoon media session, both Ray Horton and Norv Turner pulled no punches when it came to where the breakdowns have occurred.
“I think as the games go on, there’s more pressure to perform well and to not repeat a pattern that has happened in the past,” Horton said of his defensive unit, one which recently allowed 21 points to the Chicago Bears. This repeated pattern Horton is speaking of comes in the way of the ever-popular late-game collapse. At home against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Browns had a three point lead in the final minutes of the game only to give up a touchdown drive, the point-scoring play coming with 40 seconds remaining. With just over a minute remaining in New England, and the Browns having amassed a 12-point lead, Tom Brady and the Patriots rattled off two quick touchdowns. The Bears’ 21 points would come in the final 11 minutes of a game the Browns had been leading.
“It’s not acceptable at this point in the season,” said Horton. You have to do your job and you have to be accountable or at some point you move on.
“We need somebody to step up and not take that backstep and say, ‘I’m going to wait for somebody else to do it’ and to me that’s been the biggest disappointment as our big-time players play well but we also need our role players to do their role and whether that’s being in the right gap or making tackle or knowing your assignment. There’s too many guys playing at a high level for us to be successful for three quarters and then come crunch time or two minutes to kind of play differently.”
While the defense could arguably be considered the backbone of the four-win Browns, the offense led by Norv Turner has been inconsistent at best. Three quarterbacks, all being used intermittently based on injuries and coaching decisions, have led to a state of flux. With a complete absence of a run game, the team has been forced to rely on the passing game even when they are attempting to hold a lead as the winter months creep in. Though they held their own against the Patriots in Foxboro, there was a considerable regression against the Bears as quarterback Jason Campbell settled for screen passes and check-down options despite Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon—the team’s only two legitimate play-making options—being open down the field. Turner was quick to point out that the plays were there, but his players simply didn’t execute.
“I don’t think [The Bears] did anything unusual,” said Turner. “The first play, actually, could have gone to [Gordon]. We got pressure and Jason went to the other side. We only ran six plays in the first (quarter); we had one drive. I think we had six plays, they had in the twenties.”
“When you looked at it, and during the game, I thought there were opportunities for Josh. I thought he could have easily had six or seven catches for another 150 yards. We were just off. We missed him a couple of times and we didn’t throw to him a couple of times when he had chances to make big plays.”
Gordon would finish the day with a respectable afternoon from a statistical perspective, he was held without a catch in the first half after a lack of targets were mixed with a play that could have went for a 55-yard touchdown pass, Gordon taking a deep-in route across the field, but Campbell’s pass would sail in front of the receiver and the Browns were forced to settle for a punt. The Bears would subsequently field the punt with two minutes remaining and drive down the field for a touchdown.
The Browns travel to New Jersey this weekend to face the 6-8 New York Jets. They may be doing so without a pair of would-be Pro Bowlers in tight end Jordan Cameron (concussion) and Joe Haden (hip).