For the second straight week, the Cleveland Browns mounted a comeback and were in a position to register their first win not only of the 2016 season, but also, under the direction of first-year coach Hue Jackson.
But for the second consecutive game, the Browns failed to score late, and that resulted in a 31-20 loss to Washington at FedEx Field on Sunday.
“It was tough,” Browns rookie quarterback Cody Kessler said. “Our guys fought really hard, and I was so proud of them. We fought back from a deficit. We were down 14 in the first quarter and the guys fought back.
“We just kept fighting, kept working hard and gave ourselves a chance. We’ve just got to finish. We’ve got to work on finishing and making the plays at the end.”
After scoring on four straight possessions to take a 20-17 lead, the Browns had three consecutive drives end with turnovers, miscues that turned into two Washington touchdowns in the setback.
“That’s something I have to learn from, and it hurts,” Kessler said. “I put everything I have into this. I fight so hard, and that situation right there, I’ve got to be better, and that’s on me. I’ve got to give him a better ball. You can’t turn the ball over in that situation, but it just goes with finish. We played so well all day, and we’ve just got to finish when we get a chance there at the end.”
Washington cornerback Josh Norman had some plays he would like to have back in the first half, but made up for it with an interception of Kessler midway through the fourth quarter.
Norman’s first interception with Washington set up a drive that running back Matt Jones turned into a one-yard touchdown and a 31-20 lead over the Browns with 4:25 to play in the regulation.
Facing a second-and-two from his own 10-yard line, Kessler was looking for a pass down the left hash mark when Norman jumped the route and corralled the interception. Despite Norman drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for a bow-and-arrow celebration following the forced turnover, Washington started the drive on Cleveland’s side of midfield.
After a 23-yard pass from Kirk Cousins to wide receiver Pierre Garcon, Jones got the ball down to the one-yard line with a 16-yard gallop around left end. One play later, he scooted across the goal line for the lead-extending touchdown.
“I’ve got to put it a little more in front of him,” Kessler said. “He ran a great route and got himself open. That’s just on me. I’ve got to time that out better with him and get it out in front. He did a great job. The guy’s played really well all day. The whole offense had. That’s on me. I’ve got to be better there.”
As the Browns prepare to take on the New England Patriots at FirstEnergy Stadium Sunday, Kessler will turn the hurt of the loss at Washington into motivation for the future.
“It hurts as bad as the last one,” Kessler said. “It just hurts. I love this team, and they’ve been great to me and welcomed me with open arms these last two weeks. I just care so much about these guys and this city and everything. That’s why it really hurts me because I put everything I can into that, as does everyone else on the team.
“These guys are awesome, and there’s no one else I’d rather be playing with. I think that’s why it hurts. You see the guys and how upset they are at the end because we work so hard, and we’ve just got to do a better job of finishing and we’ve got to eliminate their mistakes.”