Cleveland's Glass Is Both Half Full And Half Empty
The Cleveland Browns’ 27-26 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday is both devastating and encouraging.
Huh? Say what?
Yes, that’s right, both devastating and encouraging.
It is devastating in the fact that for the second straight week, the Browns let a victory slip from their grasps in the final minute. In its previous game, Cleveland lost 32-28 as the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars threw a touchdown pass with 40 seconds remaining. Then Sunday, it was the Patriots rallying from a 26-14 deficit with three minutes left. New England, in fact, scored two touchdowns in the final 61 seconds.
There was nothing encouraging about losing the Jaguars. Like the Browns, they are a building team. When you’ve got those teams down at home, you’re supposed to beat them.
But the loss to the Patriots is much, much different. They have been a great team for a long time. They’re now 10-3 this year and on the way to winning the AFC East once again. Tom Brady and former Browns boss Bill Belichick are one of the greatest quarterback-head coaching duos in NFL history.
That the Browns had a team of that stature on the ropes, failing to win only because Brady, aka Captain Comeback, worked his magic once more by firing those two touchdown passes at the end, shows that head coach Rob Chudzinski’s club is making strides. When the Browns play like that every week, they are right there. They are indeed getting better.
Of course, there are supposed to be no moral victories, but what the Browns did Sunday is truly something on which to build.
*The biggest difference between the Browns and Patriots – other than Brady and Belichick – is that New England always believes it will win, no matter what the odds. Cleveland still looks for something bad to happen at the end. The Browns have to learn how to win, how to close down games. There’s a method to it. You have to make big plays down the stretch, and the Browns are not there yet.
*We are watching WR Josh Gordon have not just the greatest pass-catching season in Browns history, but also one of the best in league history. With his seven receptions for 151 yards and a touchdiown on Sunday, he now has 71 catches for a team-record 1,400 yards and eight touchdowns.
Moreover, he’s done it with three games still to play, and despite the fact he missed the first two contests because of an NFL suspension. Yes, he has done all that in only 11 games. In the last five contests, he has 36 catches for 774 yards and five touchdowns.
And did we mention that he’s in just his second season, or that there were rumors he would be sent packing at the trade deadline this year?
Keep in mind, too, that he’s done that with a revolving-door situation at quarterback. How much better will he be when the Browns are able to settle in on just one quarterback?
*If Gordon weren’t so spectacular, then TE Jordan Cameron would be getting more headlines. After catching nine passes for a career-high 121 yards and a touchdown at New England, he actually leads the team with 72 receptions – one more than Gordon -- and has 825 receiving yards and seven scores. He now has his sights set on Pro Football Hall of Famer TE Ozzie Newsome, who twice caught a team-record 89 passes, and Kellen Winslow, who in 2007 had 1,106 receiving yards, the most ever by a Cleveland tight end.
Again, like Gordon, how much better would Cameron be if the QB situation were more settled?
*Then there’s QB Jason Campbell. Although he’s not the long-term answer he showed on Sunday how good the Browns can be when they get good quarterback play. He threw for 391 yards, tied with someone named Brian Suipe for the sixth-most in team history. He passed for three scores and had no interceptions for a 116.6 quarterback rating.
So overall, while it’s another loss in a 4-9 season, there is room for optimism, which is something you couldn’t say after the debacle against Jascksonville.