The Cleveland Browns have been close, but there is no room for interpretation on the scoreboard because in the National Football League, a loss is still a loss, no matter what the point differential says at the end of the game.
With a 13-point halftime lead over the New York Jets in front of a home crowd at FirstEnergy Stadium Sunday, the Browns had another opportunity to get their first victory under the direction of head coach Hue Jackson. But poor tackling and a sluggish offensive effort in the second half proved too much to overcome and the Browns suffered a 31-28 loss to the Jets to fall to 0-8 on the season.
“Obviously, disappointing,” Jackson said. “Had our chances, did not finish it and that has kind of been the story of our season. I take responsibility for that. Somehow, someway, we have to find a way in the second half to finish games and we have the opportunity.
“It is disappointing to have the ’86 team here, who did a lot of great things, and see those guys and not have them be able to walk away from here with a win.
“This is us. It has nothing to do with anyone else. We have to play better, finish and get better, and it is hard, but we are going to stay after it. It is halfway through the season. We are 0-8. We own the record, and we have to play better. It is just that simple.”
The Browns’ run defense was a particular problem in the second half of the loss to the Jets, just as it was the week before in a 14-point loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
All told, the Browns surrendered 171 rushing yards to the tandem of Matt Forte and Bilal Powell, as well as quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Forte ran for 82 yards and two touchdowns and Powell added 76 with a 35-yard scoring run to his credit.
Individually, both Forte and Powell rushed for more yards than the Browns combined for as a team, 68.
“It seems like we could not get them down,” Jackson said. “I need to watch the tape to see exactly where we are as far as that is concerned. I thought we had chances to make plays and we didn’t make them. The interception potential to start the second half, almost came down with that, and those things come to catch you later on because it led to a touchdown.”
Although Jackson was proud of the “resilient group” that “will keep fighting” through the struggles of an 0-8 start to the season and being the only remaining winless team in the NFL, he knows no words will compare to the reward of a victory.
“We have to do it,” Jackson said. "It is no magic. Our players, our staff, coaches and the team, we have to go do it. We have to finish it. We have to get this monkey off our back. It is just that simple.
“We have to finish the game. Those plays that I’m talking about in the second half that we did not make, some of the things you guys mentioned, tackling, this and that, we have to fix that because if you don’t, that is what happens.”