CLEVELAND -- With Sunday’s 31-7 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in 2017’s first installment of “The Battle of Ohio,” the Cleveland Browns dropped to 0-4 in the regular season.
And with the Browns having another four games before getting their mid-season bye week break, the players know it is up to them to turn around the fortunes of a team that has made just one playoff appearance (January of 2003) and had two winning seasons (2002, 2007) since their return to the National Football League in 1999.
“For me, I have been in this position plenty of times,” linebacker Christian Kirksey said. “Just have to keep going and keep fighting.
“Being a captain of the team, being one of the older guys on defense that has been here, in situations like this, you have to stay together and not divide. Defensively, we have a lot of guys in there playing around and playing hard and doing everything that you ask them to do. We just have to come together collectively and play better football.”
Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals face off in 'The Battle of Ohio'
Of the Browns’ four losses, three have come at the hands of AFC North Division competition, 21-18 in a season-opening setback against the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium and a two-score defeat at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium ahead of Sunday’s loss to the Bengals.
“It definitely hurts to come home and lose like that,” Kirksey said. “It definitely hurts, but at the end of the day, it is not the end of the world. We are 0-4. We have to own up. We can’t make excuses about it. We have to accept it and get better. Just win one game.
“We did not play a good game. Tip our hat off to Cincinnati. They were the better team. We just have to find a way to play better. Simple as that. No excuses. They just had our card.”
The Browns have played their first four games without the services of the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, defensive lineman Myles Garrett, as well as the last two weeks with linebacker Jamie Collins sidelined while remaining in the league’s concussion protocol.
And that is why Kirksey and the Browns are not yet ready to hit the panic button.
“I do not think that we are in panic mode right now,” Kirksey said. “I do not think that the team is in the slumps as far as attitude. I think that we still have goals in front of us that we can reach. It is the National Football League. It is hard to win a game. As long as we keep striving to get better, keep cleaning things up in the film room and getting our key players back, I think we will be fine.
“Those are our playmakers on this team. Those are our guys on defense that are our starters. Not making excuses, but whenever you are down three core and key guys, of course, it is going to be a little different. Still, that is on us. We just did not play good football.”