Moral Victory Monday: Finding the positives in the Cleveland Browns' loss to the Minnesota Vikings

CLEVELAND - The Cleveland Browns lost to the Minnesota Vikings by a score of 33-16 on Sunday, bringing the Browns' record on the season to 0-8, Hue Jackson's record as Cleveland's head coach to 1-23 and the franchise's record dating back to 2015 to 4-36.

Factor in their five-game losing streak to close 2014 and the Browns have now just won four of their last 45 games.

Meanwhile, Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson each look like franchise quarterbacks while at 6-2, the rival Pittsburgh Steelers appear to have finally found their footing this season. When it comes to Cleveland football, there's plenty of negativity to go around.

But why focus on that?

After all, doesn't the old saying go that it doesn't matter whether you win or lose, but how you play the game? And sure, the Browns may have lost by double-digits for the fourth time in eight tries this year, but truth be told, their effort in London was one of their better showings this season. Some might even call it progress.

While naysayers may be running amok on social media and sports talk radio airwaves, that won't be the case here. With that in mind, here are the positives you could -- and should -- take away from the Browns' latest moral victory.

DeShone Kizer: Not that bad!

For the first time since the third week of the season, DeShone Kizer not only started, but finished a game for the Browns at quarterback.

That in and of itself may qualify as a moral victory.

Completing 18 of 34 passes for 179 yards and adding a touchdown on the ground, the rookie signal-caller put together arguably his most impressive outing since the team's 21-18 season-opening loss to the Steelers. And most importantly, he not only avoided throwing any red-zone interceptions on Sunday, but remained turnover-free for an entire game for the first time in his young career.

Kizer may still rank last in the league in QBR, but for the first time in a long time, Jackson won't have to announce who his starting quarterback will be the next time the Browns take the field. The second-round rookie may not compare to Wentz or Watson just yet, but just remember, you have to crawl before you can run.

Joe Thomas: Ewing Theory candidate?

One might consider the play of Spencer Drango, who Pro Football Focus graded an impressive 79.4, a positive in its own right as the second-year player became the first person not named Joe Thomas to start at left tackle for the Browns since 2006.

But why stop there?

Is it possible Cleveland could be better without Thomas, who made the Pro Bowl 10 times in his first 10 seasons and is already a surefire Hall of Fame whenever he chooses to retire? Watching Drango dominate Everson Griffin on Sunday, even Thomas had to wonder:

The way the Browns offense came to life (for a quarter) without Thomas on the field reminded me of something Bill Simmons of "Any Given Wednesday" fame calls the "Ewing Theory."

Per Simmons (when he worked at ESPN), the Ewing Theory is in play when a team outperforms expectations when:

A star athlete receives an inordinate amount of media attention and fan interest, and yet his teams never win anything substantial with him (other than maybe some early-round playoff series).

Or:

That same athlete leaves his team (either by injury, trade, graduation, free agency or retirement) -- and both the media and fans immediately write off the team for the following season.

Given that the Browns haven't enjoyed a winning season since Thomas' rookie season in 2007, they certainly seem to qualify. Now all they need is for some wins to follow.

Browns Football: Now with less Kenny Britt

Despite being completely healthy, Kenny Britt didn't play a single snap on Sunday. That means the Browns flew Britt to London -- a country he admittedly is not a fan of -- only to have him stand on the sideline for the entire game.

With the way Britt has underperformed his 4-year, $32.5 million contract this season -- including committing a curfew violation that forced the team to send him home from Houston earlier this month -- Cleveland's use of Britt -- or lack thereof -- this week served to satisfy the pettiest portion that exists within the Browns' fanbase.

With a bye week looming, it appeared possible the team may even opt to cut ties altogether with Britt -- although Jackson insisted that's not the case. Nevertheless, witnessing Jackson reward his receivers based on their actual efforts felt like a step in the right direction in a game that was full of them for the Browns.

© 2017 WKYC-TV


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