In each of the last three weeks, the Cleveland Browns have had chances to register their first win of the regular season, but in every one of those situations, they fell short, including Sunday’s 31-20 loss to Washington at FedEx Field.
After four straight scoring drives, the Browns committed turnovers on three consecutive possessions, and the ensuing 14 points off of those miscues led to their fourth loss of the 2016 season under the direction of first-year head coach Hue Jackson.
But despite the loss to Washington, Jackson expects the Browns to keep challenging for that first victory of the season.
“We’ve got a group of fighters, and I’m not concerned with what’s going to happen in our locker room," Jackson said. “I know we’re going to go back to work this week and go fight again. I just want to make sure the things that I know that it takes to win, we’ve just got to do it better. Again, that starts with me, and getting the other guys to see that, understand that and do that, and they will.”
Although the Browns are young and inexperienced at nearly every position on the field, Jackson is relying on veterans like nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas and two-time all-star cornerback Joe Haden to set the tone in the locker room.
“We have such good veteran leadership in our locker room that I think our guys will rally again,” Jackson said. “It’s my job to lead them, and keep them going and keep them fighting. They will keep fighting, and we will do that, but I think that wins are around the corner.
“I really do. We’ve been in the last three ball games for sure with a chance, and I think we can do it better. That starts with me. It’s easy to lay the fumbles out there, but at the same time, I’ve just got to coach them better.”
After giving up touchdowns on each of Washington’s first two drives, the Browns had an answer in the form of a scoring rush from running back Isaiah Crowell.
Crowell finished off a 12-play, 80-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown dive that cut Washington’s lead in half, 14-7, with 9:33 remaining in the first half.
Then, after a defensive stop, the Browns found a way to draw even with Washington when wide receiver Terrelle Pryor hauled in a nine-yard touchdown pass from rookie quarterback Cody Kessler midway through the second quarter.
On third-and-seven from Washington’s nine-yard line, Kessler took the snap from new center Austin Reiter, rolled out to his right and found Pryor breaking free while sprinting toward the sideline. Kessler put the pass where only Pryor could catch it, and the former quarterback-turned-wide receiver hauled in the touchdown.
“It’s been kind of the nature of our team a little bit,” Jackson said. “I don’t know if it’s anxiety. We start playing, and then, things don’t go as well. Then, things start to settle down and start doing what we need to do, playing football the way we need to play.
“I know it’s in there with our guys. We’ve just got to do it from start to finish and finish it that way. I’m not disappointed in our effort. I'm disappointed in the outcome. I’m disappointed for our players and how hard they fight, and they deserve to win. We’ve got to take care of the ball in order to do that. Next week, it’ll be something else the way this goes. We’ve just got to fight every situation to keep getting better.”