The Cleveland Browns have held leads in each of their last four games, but have gone 0-4 during that stretch.
At 4-11 overall, and on a six-game losing streak heading into Sunday’s season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field, the Browns continue to work on developing a finisher’s mentality.
“We’ve talked a lot about having a mindset of when the game is there, when there’s that time to take the game, of stepping up and making those plays,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said. “We have to do, and I have to do a better job and continue to do a job of building that mindset.”
In Sunday’s 24-13 loss to the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium, the Browns held a 10-0 lead with less than two minutes to play in the first half. However, the Jets tallied 10 points in the final 1:18 and evened the score at halftime.
Then, the Jets outscored the Browns, 14-3, in the second half to close out the victory.
“It’s about a mindset,” Chudzinski said. “We’ve talked a lot, using the term, ‘the last five,’ ‘the last five minutes of each half,’ and wanting to win the last five. That’s been a huge point of emphasis, so the guys are aware of it. They know it. They want to do well, but you have to execute as well. You have to make plays when you have the opportunity. From a coaching standpoint, we have to do everything we can to put them in the very best position to do that.
“I’m not happy with our performance, both as coaches and as players. Our execution was not good enough. We weren’t able to accomplish the things that we had set out to in terms of our plan in order to win, specifically, turnovers, performance in third down and red zone, as well as the line of scrimmage battle up front on both sides of the ball.”
Along with the finisher’s mindset, Chudzinski wants his players to display consistency in production.
“We’ve played well coming into games and starting games, and have had good starts and started fast, and we haven’t been able to maintain those leads,” Chudzinski said. “Each week, it’s for different reasons. That’s the difficult thing, to pin one thing down. When you pin it down to one thing, you can fix it. Sometimes, you fix one thing and something else pops up.
“You look at tape, and there’s some good things. Whenever you play, there’s some good things, and some things that aren’t good. The special teams played great yesterday, made three big plays for us. At times, there’s been issues with that in some of the games we’ve played. Offense has had their issues at times, Defense has had its issues at times, as well. That’s the thing we need to get better at to grow as a team, because if we do, and are able to protect those leads, or score, continue to build on those leads and win games, that’s the difference.”
Once one of the league’s best run defenses that was capable of bottling up a reigning NFL MVP in Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson, and the versatile Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens, the Browns have struggled on the ground as of late.
However, the Browns allowed the Jets to rush for 208 yards and one touchdown in Sunday’s loss, including a 109-yard performance by running back Chris Ivory.
“Each week, it’s different,” Chudzinski said. “There’s not just one, specific thing that you can put your finger on. In terms of yesterday’s game, we got blocked out of our gaps sometimes. We misfit some of the runs. We lost contain. At times, we had some guys trying to do too much, and it’s definitely something that needs to get fixed. It was a key to the game, us stopping the run. We had committed a lot of guys in the box, and it’s something that’s disappointing and we need to fix.”
LACK OF PRESSURE
In Sunday’s loss, the Browns were unable to sack Jets quarterback Geno Smith, and failed to register a single hit on the rookie signal-caller.
“We weren’t able to get pressure,” Chudzinski said. “We had a lot of one-on-ones that we didn’t win. That was a key to the game, the line of scrimmage and our inability to get pressure on him. We did bat a few balls down, but we didn’t get enough pressure to make a difference.”
Chudzinski reported Monday that defensive tackle