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Browns begin to process winless season, hope for better days

Posted Dec 31, 2017

'We’ll wear it until we can take it off'​

PITTSBURGH— The Browns’ 28-24 loss to the Steelers felt like an entire year condensed into one game.

In Sunday’s season finale, Cleveland rallied past a double-digit deficit only to stumble in heartbreaking fashion when it mattered most.

With the chance to score the go-ahead touchdown under two minutes to play, Corey Coleman bobbled a pass from rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer on fourth-and-2, effectively sealing the first winless season in franchise history.

“This is going to stay next to my name, this organization’s team, this team’s name for the rest of their lives. Nobody wants that,” head coach Hue Jackson said in his postgame news conference. “We tried. We didn’t do it. We didn’t finish that.”

From Coleman’s dropped pass to two late turnovers, a season of self-inflicted wounds and missed opportunities continued on a frigid afternoon at Heinz Field.

Despite a slow start, the Browns actually outgained the shorthanded Steelers (they rested Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown among other starters with an eye toward the postseason) and looked as if they might pull off the comeback down the stretch.

Instead, the Browns -- despite their pluck and resilience -- ultimately couldn’t overcome that pair of fourth-quarter giveaways, nine penalties and a 96-yard kick return for a touchdown that handed Pittsburgh the lead once and for all.

“It’s kind of been our M.O. all year,” left guard Joel Bitonio said. “We had a chance to win it, and we didn’t make enough plays.”

“That’s kind of who we are. I know it. We fight against it. Our guys work against it,” Jackson added. “Those things just show up at times when we don’t need them too. That’s who we’ve been. We just have to get out of that.”

Kizer, who’s been through a rollercoaster of a rookie season, passed for two touchdowns and a career-high 314 yards, but tossed a backbreaking interception on the team’s second-to-last drive. It was his 22nd of the season.

“It’s very tough. You hear 0-13 and then you touch 0-14 and then at 0-15, alarms start creeping into your mind a little bit,” he said. “You guys ask a lot of questions about it and you ignore it as much as you can, but it’s here. It’s a tough spot to be in and I’m the one that is quarterbacking them. We had a little success in the preseason. It’s going to be tough to swallow.”

The Browns are the first team since the 2008 Lions to finish a season 0-16.

In his postgame news conference, Jackson spoke of brighter days. Until then, this season will burn deep.

“We’ll wear it until we can take it off,” he said. “But we’ll take it off soon. I promise you that.”

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