The Cleveland Browns headed into the bye week with a 24-18 victory over the Baltimore Ravens and sat at 4-5 overall with a chance to get within a half-game of the front-running Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North Division standings if they earned a victory against their intrastate rivals on Nov. 17.
However, the Browns have lost to the Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers in back-to-back weeks, and now, find themselves at 4-7 with five games left to play in the regular season.
And as they begin preparations for Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, they do so motivated to erase the memories of the last two weeks.
“I’m tired of losing,” Browns safety T.J. Ward said, flatly, after the loss to Pittsburgh. “That’s it. I’m tired of losing in this manner. It’s a little bit different if you go to the wire and you’re fighting the whole game and you have an opportunity to win the game, but we were out of the game in the fourth quarter. Nobody wants to play like that.
“It’s a long season. Every game tells a different tale. You’ve got to come out every week and compete and play up to what you did last week. You can’t lay an egg two games in a row and then, expect to be a playoff team or anything like that. We’ve got to play one game at a time.”
Fellow defensive back
“The season’s not over until everything is over,” Haden said. “We still have to go out there. We still have to play. We are playing. No matter what is at stake, we are still playing. What you put on tape, that’s your resume, and everybody has to ‘ball out.’”
And it was not just the players who took Sunday’s 27-11 loss to the Steelers to heart.
“The men in that locker room, they have a lot of character, and I believe in them,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said. “I believe in our coaches. We will bounce back and play well. We lost some of the control that we had in our own future, but we’ll bounce back and be ready to play next week.
“The key is, you have to look at each game and say, ‘Hey, what were the things that went wrong? What didn’t we do well? What things did we do well? What are the plays we need to make? What are the things we need to do to take the next step?’
“That’s what we’ve talked about and it’s what we’ll continue to talk about. We’ll take that step. It’s going to happen. I told these guys the future is going to be bright. Tomorrow’s going to be a better day, and that’s the way we’re approaching it and I believe that.”
Of the five remaining games, three are on the road, including the final two, at the New York Jets on Dec. 22 and Pittsburgh on Dec. 29. The Browns start their stretch of road games when they play at the AFC East Division-leading New England Patriots on Dec. 8.
The Browns also have an inter-conference game with the Chicago Bears, who are in second place in the NFC North Division, at FirstEnergy Stadium on Dec. 15.
“We’re not quitters,” defensive lineman
“They’re going to try to do the same thing to us,” Gordon said. “If we don’t stand up for ourselves soon and prove to the city and prove to this conference that we’re a contender and we can compete, then, there’s nothing left to say. You just want guys to learn from an experience like this because teams are going to come out there and play their best, and we’ve got to do the same.”