On Monday, the Browns were still somewhat in a state of shock over the events of Sunday.
Not the frightening, wind-swept landing of the return flight from Cincinnati, but the bizarre loss in which one aspect of the team – the defense – pretty much did everything necessary for a victory. And that made the fact that the Browns had squandered an opportunity to sweep their season series with the Bengals and enhance their chances of reaching the playoffs even more frustrating.
As the players gathered for their usual day-after-the-game meeting, linebacker D’Qwell Jackson knew the time had come for something to be said.
Jackson is the captain of the defense and the strongest leader on both sides of the ball. He takes that leadership role as seriously as he takes any part of his job or his life, for that matter.
“I’m one of the leaders and I pay attention to everything,” he said. “I care about every player on this team. I want every player to succeed. I may not speak all the time, speak out, but I will speak up if I feel the need that something needs to be addressed. And it was just one of those deals where I felt our focus needed more focus. And it was up to me to bring that to light.
“If it has an effect, it does. If it doesn’t, then we’re not going to tolerate it. Myself and the (other) leaders on this team, we demand and we hold each other accountable. And that’s just another instance of me holding some guys accountable and understanding that we all want to win. We all want to do this thing the right way, and if we feel like, in certain areas we’re not doing that, it’s my job and (and the job of) other team leaders to step up and say something about it.”
Something about squandering a 13-0 early lead. Something about allowing the Bengals to set a club record with a 31-point second quarter. Something about attitude and body language.
“I remember, at one time in the second quarter, I didn’t know what the score was,” Jackson said. “I was just worried about the defensive guys on the field and getting off the field and creating field position for our offense. But my job during those times is to kind of look around and see what the temperament of the team is. If guys are kind of feeling sorry for themselves, it’s my job to keep that morale up and just talk our way out of it. And that’s what a lot of us did for the most part was just, once we dug ourselves in the hole, it was hard to dig ourselves out of it.”
Jackson sets an extremely high standard for himself and for everyone around him.
He is proud of the way the Browns’ defense has played. He recognizes that they have made an incredible jump from last season, going from 19th to fifth in the NFL. But it isn’t good enough. Not to him.
“We want to strive to be the best defense at the end of the day,” Jackson said. “There are a ton of areas where we can clean up, particularly third down and red zone. We haven’t been as dominant as we should be in those areas. We clean those areas up, we give this team a great chance of winning.
“I think everything is still there, what we want to accomplish. We’ve just got to go out there and stop shooting ourselves in the foot. That’s all we’ve got to do, just clean that up. Everything else will play itself out.”
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