The media waited outside the locker room a few minutes longer than usual after Sunday’s loss to the Jaguars. Judging by Rob Chudzinski’s mood for his post-game press conference, it would come as no surprise if the first year coach didn’t deliver a stern message to the team.
“Disappointing, difficult loss,” said Chudzinski stepping to the podium. “We made too many critical mistakes we were not able to overcome today. We won’t stand for losing. We’re going to get this fixed; it’s unacceptable.”
Disappointing is a word that Chudzinski has used several times in previous losses. Perhaps it was the tone behind the words on Sunday that seemed different. The words were crisper. Sharper.
“It’s not about the effort of the group today; it’s about the mistakes,” Chudzinski continued. “This was a team loss. Everybody is accountable. Every area of the team can get better and could be better today.”
No question that there were let downs in all three phases of the game. The offense killed the team’s chances with turnovers. The defense had the lead to protect with under four minutes to go and Jacksonville 80 yards from the end zone. The special teams didn’t have many errors, but Billy Cundiff did miss a long field goal.
It isn’t hard to imagine which particular portion of the game upset Chudzniski more than most. In the last two minutes and forty-seven seconds of the second quarter the Browns lost the lead on a pair of interceptions and a fumble by quarterback Brandon Weeden. The Browns went from being up a touchdown, to down a field goal heading into halftime.
“It was critical in the course of the game,” said Chudzinski about that sequence. “It was huge and a huge momentum swing going into the half. Multiple turnovers there occurred, and [we] can’t have it. They were able to get 13 points in a short amount of time, and it really changed the complexion of the game. I thought our guys rallied at halftime and came out with a big drive in the second half and showed their determination and showed the type of character that this teams is made of. But again, those critical mistakes, turnovers, are killing us in those games. We’re just not able to overcome.”
There were several players that could have, and did share blame after this one. Cornerback Joe Haden took responsibility for allowing the game winning touchdown. Alex Mack took responsibility for the errant snap that sailed over Weeden’s head and cost the team a safety and the lead.
Safeties Tashaun Gipson, and T.J. Ward were both quick to defend Haden, saying that the whole defense was responsible for surrendering that final touchdown drive, not just the last play in which Haden was beat in the end zone. D’Qwell Jackson would echo those sentiments.
Chudzinski was quick to point out that despite the mistakes, the team didn’t quit and will get better.
“We will stick together as this team has done,” Chudzinski said. “They’re professionals and they won’t give up. They didn’t give up today. I’m fully committed to getting this thing turned and finishing our last four games and getting this thing on the right track.”
That right track may be difficult to find this coming week.
Following the game, Brandon Weeden was examined for a concussion. Those results were positive and Weeden entered the league’s concussion protocol. That could mean he is unavailable for next Sunday’s game against the Patriots. It is possible that Jason Campbell is cleared of his concussion in time to play this week, but there is still a question of his ribs which were hurt again last week against the Steelers. Campbell was forced from the game in the first half after a shot to the midsection. He later returned to the game, but those ribs are going to be bothering him for a while.
That could mean the Browns are down to newly signed quarterback Alex Tanney on the road in Foxboro against the 9-3 Patriots.
Following New England, the Browns have one more home game against the Chicago Bears (6-6) who are fighting for the NFC North division title, just one loss behind Detroit. Then the Browns hit the road for their final two games against the Jets (5-7) and the Steelers (5-7). Cleveland will likely be underdogs in all four of those contests, with the possible exception of the Jets.