There are no such things as rookies on the Cleveland Browns anymore.
Veteran Browns cornerback Joe Haden feels that despite the team falling to 0-8 after Sunday’s 31-28 loss to the New York Jets at FirstEnergy Stadium, at this point, the first-year players have enough experience that youth is no longer a viable reason for struggling to finish games.
“There are no more young guys,” Haden said. “We have a lot of rookies playing out there, but everybody has to make plays. Especially the veterans, we have to be able to stand up in the second half and make the plays.
“We have to show the guys what it takes to win. It’s on us, but at the same time, everyone has to grow up.”
With quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing for 222 yards and a touchdown in the third and fourth quarters alongside an effective running game, the Jets rattled off 24 second-half points on the way to the come-from-behind victory.
“They were just moving the ball very well in the second half,” Haden said. “We have to try and settle down and be able to force them into more third-and-long situations. They were able to move the ball on first and second down and were able to move it down the field.
“They made the halftime adjustments. They ran different plays than they did in the second half. We have to do the same. We have to be able to adjust just like they did. He came out and did a really good job of slinging around the football in the second half.”
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 yards with a 35-yard a scoring run to his credit.
Individually, both Forte and Powell rushed for more yards than the Browns combined for as a team, 68.
And if the Browns hope to reverse their fortunes, the defense knows it has to play fundamentally sound football.
“They were just breaking tackles,” Haden said. “In the first half, I thought we did a really good job. If one person missed, we did a good job of getting to the ball and letting the second and third guys make a play. In the second half, we just missed those tackles. I didn’t think the pursuit was as good as it was in the first half. We just have to get after it. We can’t be missing tackles.”
Linebacker Christian Kirksey added, “We have to go back to the fundamentals. That’s Day 1 football: learning your hand placement and learning how to get your head across. We just have to get back to the fundamentals and become a better tackling team.”