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Browns stumble late, watch chance at 1st win slip through their fingers

Posted Dec 10, 2017

'Everybody feels sick to their stomach. It was tough to lose that way'

CLEVELAND — The Browns lamented another loss in which they stumbled late in a game they could have won in a winless season where such unfortunate series of events have become commonplace.

Before Sunday’s overtime loss to the Packers was complete, they watched their largest lead of the year evaporate in the fourth quarter and came up short in the game’s most critical junctures.

On a cold afternoon on the shores of Lake Erie, Cleveland dominated Green Bay in stretches but couldn’t deliver when it mattered.

“I thought that was the best version of us as a football team – offensively, defensively and special teams – up until the fourth quarter when we need it the most,” Browns coach Hue Jackson said in his postgame news conference.

“That’s what we have to do. We have to finish it. We have to find a way. Our guys are playing hard. They’re doing exactly what we ask them to do, but we have to find a way to finish it.”

That has been the Browns’ rallying cry as they continue searching for their first win of the season. More often than not, it looked as if Cleveland would get that monkey of its back days after making major changes in their front office.

The Browns dismissed Sashi Brown on Thursday and tabbed John Dorsey as their new general manager shortly thereafter. Jackson and players maintained those events wouldn’t be a distraction this weekend, and they proved as much Sunday.

After falling behind early, the Browns calmly regrouped and scored 21 unanswered points. Quarterback DeShone Kizer tossed three touchdown passes to match a single-game rookie franchise record. Wide receivers Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman combined for 131 yards and two touchdowns on eight catches. Running back Isaiah Crowell carried the ball 19 times for 121 yards. A defense playing without three starters held Green Bay to 93 yards at halftime. 

Then it all fell apart.

Nursing a 14-point lead early in the fourth quarter, the Browns were unable to fend off quarterback Brett Hundley and the charging Packers down the stretch. Then in overtime, they watched the third-year backup win the game on a 25-yard touchdown pass to Davante Adams with 5:05 remaining in the period.

“It hurts. Obviously, when you start tasting a little victory throughout the game, you start riding that and you start remembering all of the things that go into winning and how it’s all about getting towards that win,” said Kizer, whose performance was spoiled by a late interception on third-and-2 in the extra period.  “When you don’t get to that at the end of the game, it hurts.”

“We just weren’t good enough down the stretch,” offensive lineman Joel Bitonio added. “It’s unfortunate when you have a chance. A lot of games, we haven’t had the chance. This one, we did and it was unfortunate that we didn’t finish it out.”

With a shrinking window to capture their first victory this year, the Browns have three games — and just one more at home — to figure something out. When they watch film of Sunday, they’ll see more than a few bright spots against Green Bay. Right now, though, it offers Cleveland little to no solace.

“We’ll see on film tomorrow the good plays, but right now everybody feels sick to their stomach,” Bitonio said. “It was tough to lose that way, to lose anytime, but to lose that way was real tough.”

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