Being a Cleveland Browns fan means that Sunday afternoons in the fall have great opportunity to be a day filled of letdown, gloominess and disappointment. Frankly, this has been the case five out of the last six weeks.
What may be the worst part of this expanse is the fact that the Browns have lost four of these games in the second half after having a solid lead or on the last play of the game. Here a few examples from this current season:
- Sept. 27 – The Browns hosted the Oakland Raiders, in which Cleveland had played a hardfought game. Quarterback Josh McCown performed well with 341 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. The Browns rallied from behind to score a field goal and a touchdown with six minutes left in the game. Driving one last time, Cleveland had the ball on Oakland’s 35-yard line with 43 seconds left on the clock. McCown tried to connect a deep pass to wide receiver Travis Benjamin for a potential game-tying score, but veteran safety Charles Woodson intercepted the ball, killing the drive and thus ending the game.
- Oct. 4 – Cleveland traveled to the West Coast to face the San Diego Chargers. Out of all the games listed, I think this one wins the title of biggest disappointment. Another solid game from McCown and the entire team kept the Browns close in all four quarters. Under the five minute mark, Cleveland engineered a late touchdown drive, then converted on the two-point conversion to knot the game at 27. The Chargers stormed quickly down the field in response, setting an opportunity to kick a game-winning field goal. The first attempt went sailing as time expired but the ball clanked off the post. The field goal was no good. However, an offside penalty on the Browns essentially gave the Chargers’ kicking unit a redo, which it sent through the heart of the uprights.
- Oct. 18 – The Denver Broncos — undefeated and led by future hall of fame quarterback Peyton Manning — made their way to the banks of Lake Erie for a visit to an electric First Energy Stadium. Cleveland was coming off a win over its rival Baltimore in thrilling fashion — storming back in the second half and eventually connecting on game-winning field goal in overtime. (It’s crazy how the Browns can be on the bright side for once). Now, back against the Broncos, the Browns’ defense had quite the game, forcing three interceptions. This enabled the offense — despite the lackluster performance — to hang on in yet another tight game. Forcing overtime for a second straight week, Cleveland had backed the Broncos into a corner by intercepting the ball and having incredible field position. On par to what the season had been thus far, the Browns offense had a brain-fart, stalling out and eventually punting to give the Broncos the ball back. As the clock in overtime continued to dwindle down, Manning and the Broncos rallied, generating an impressive drive to only end the game on a 34-yard field goal. The Browns had their opportunities but they fell through their grasp.
- Nov. 1 – This past week, Arizona arrived in town. Cleveland got off to sluggish start before putting on an offensive clinic in the first half. McCown connected with tight end Gary Barnidge — who appears to now be McCown’s go-to man — for a touchdown, followed by a pair of connections with former Ohio State Buckeye Brian Hartline for two scores to give the Browns a 20-10 lead heading into the locker rooms at halftime. The momentum ceased to continue in the second frame though, as the defense struggled to pressure Cardinals’ signal-caller Carson Palmer, which allowed the 13-year NFL veteran to surgically dissect the Browns defense through the air. To no one’s surprise, the offense then stalled. Though the end result was not close, the first half sure gave fans a false hope for the rest of the game. But, in typical fashion, fans were left shaking their heads as another ‘L’ was added to the Browns’ record.
What is by far the most painstaking element, and the utmost epitome of Cleveland Browns football is the fact that the team consistently loses games it has been a contender in. The past few seasons are great examples, in which the final record in no way represents how the season actually went.
The Browns are on the verge of something good — a winning season, a playoff berth perhaps. The games this season reflect such a bold statement. One positive season is on the way, loyal Browns fans. I feel it.
But it cannot come with a quarterback struggle and rearranging of coaches and front office personnel. It is difficult to give hope for a team that is a laughingstock of a league, but know that when these games are close, they are signs that there is success on its way.