Losses don't get much more painful than the one the Browns experienced Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.
The Browns fell 31-30 to the Jets despite holding a 13-point lead with less than two minutes remaining. New York piloted two touchdown drives and recovered their own onside kick in the final minute to steal the lead, turning a day where the Browns should've won comfortably into one of confusion and disappointment.
Here are three takeaways from a difficult-to-process home opener in Cleveland:
Check out photos of the Browns against the Jets in Week 2
1. Browns know they have no excuses
The result stemmed from non-stop breakdowns on nearly every play in the final two minutes.
First, it was a 66-yard touchdown from QB Joe Flacco to WR Corey Davis, who sprinted past a Browns secondary that just never picked him up. Then, it was an onside kick the Browns should've recovered, but didn't. That opened the door for the Jets to build a nine-play, 48-yard drive full of other small breakdowns that led to the game-ending play: a 15-yard pass from Flacco to WR Garrett Wilson that gave the Jets the lead after a successful PAT.
The Browns had every chance to put the game away after RB Nick Chubb scored his third touchdown of the day with just over two minutes left. With a 30-17 lead, all they needed was one more defensive stop.
Instead, they gave the Jets every chance to win. New York didn't waste a single opportunity.
"It's really frustrating," head coach Kevin Stefanski said. "We didn't play a 60-minute game. It's really frustrating. It's frustrating to me, the players in that locker room, and I'm sure it's frustrating to our fans. It's not how we play. We have to finish and do the things that allow you to win games, and we didn't do that."
The Browns talked all week about how they worked to fix communication issues that plagued the defense on a couple big plays last week against the Panthers, but they instead took a big step in the wrong direction in the game's most crucial moments.
It's not how a defense that returned nine of 11 starters — and nearly all of their top secondary players — was supposed to look in the first two games of the season. The defensive continuity was one of the Browns' biggest strengths from the offseason, but the benefits haven't come to fruition.
"Obviously, we need to over-communicate now," CB Greg Newsome II said. "We'll find a way to fix those things."
Stefanski, though, said the onus falls on everyone. QB Jacoby Brissett threw an interception on the final drive, the lone blemish on an otherwise crisp day for the offense. The special teams had a poor fourth quarter — K Cade York missed an extra-point on the final touchdown drive and the unit failed to recover an onside kick. The defensive miscues compounded all of those mistakes.
The Browns know they have no excuses and a lot of work ahead to ensure no other game ends that way this season.
"Everybody is going to want to point fingers and say, 'Whose fault is this?'" Stefanski said. "Put it on everybody. It is all of us, me, coaches and players. It's everybody."
2. Brissett takes big strides
As tough as it may seem, the loss shouldn't cloud the strides the offense took with QB Jacoby Brissett in his second Browns start.
Brissett finished 22-for-27 with 229 yards, one touchdowns and an interception, which was thrown to Jets safety Ashtyn Davis on the final drive. Before that, Brissett commanded the offense with a steady pace and found ways to give the ball to the offense's top playmakers.
It's the type of performance the Browns needed from Brissett to comfortably win games.
"We lost as a team," Brissett said. "That's the tough part that is still on my mind right now — that we did lose. Just still going back through the film and being critical of myself in situations because we didn't score every time we touched the ball."
Brissett moved the Browns into the red zone five times, and they scored touchdowns on four of those opportunities. Three of those touchdowns came from Chubb, and another was a pass from Brissett to WR Amari Cooper, who showed excellent rapport with the QB all game.
Cooper was targeted 10 times and caught nine of the passes for 101 yards and a 6-yard touchdown. After totaling only 17 receiving yards in Week 1, Cooper was one of the biggest weapons Brissett used to find a rhythm, and it worked.
"I think it was just the flow of the game," Brissett said. "A lot of the ones that we got PI (defensive pass interference on) last week, we didn't this week, and we actually had a chance to connect. I thought he played well."
Unfortunately, the result still wasn't good enough for a win. Brissett acknowledged the step in the right direction but stated that more still must be done on offense.
"There are obviously things that we can work on or that I can work on. This team can, and I think this team will."
3. A short week comes at good time
The Browns want to flush the loss as quickly as possible, and they have no choice but to do so this week.
In four days, they'll be back at FirstEnergy Stadium in a crucial Week 3 divisional game against the Steelers. Every team in the AFC North is now 1-1, so the early-season matchup will already be a big game in gaining ground at the top of the division.
The Browns will rest Monday, practice Tuesday and complete preparations Wednesday before they look to rebound at home against a familiar opponent.
"What we can't do is let this linger," Stefanski said. "We have to, real quickly, move on from this one," Stefanski said, "and that was my message to the team."