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3 Big Takeaways: Browns searching for answers as season draws to a close

CHICAGO —

  1.  The Browns remain winless after Sunday’s 20-3 loss to the Bears and have one more opportunity — a Week 17 meeting against the Steelers in Pittsburgh — to avoid the first winless season in franchise history.  

With the loss in Chicago, Cleveland fell to 0-15 and 1-30 over the past two years. It was a painful low lost neither on coach Hue Jackson nor his players afterward.

“I’m disappointed and (ticked) off because I never saw this being this way in my two years here. Ever,” Jackson said in his postgame news conference. “I’ve been coaching football a long time, been through a lot of things, seen a lot of things, and I just know without question we’re going to get this fixed.

"I was able to look right into certain peoples eyes right after the game in our locker room and I know this is going to get fixed. It’s just hard going through it. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever been through in my life.”

As Cleveland prepares for its regular-season finale, Jackson said his message to a young team won’t change. “I’m very consistent with this group. I have their total trust, they have mine. We’ve just got to do things better,” he said. “I said this a long time ago, sometimes it feels like everything’s got to be perfect in order for us to have a chance. But there’s some things we can do better.”

  1. DeShone Kizer’s rollercoaster of a rookie season continued at Soldier Field. The rookie quarterback completed 18 of 36 throws for 182 yards and two interceptions, prolonging a year-long struggle with turnovers.

After the game, Kizer — a second-round pick from Notre Dame who has shown promise in stretches — took ownership of those struggles and Cleveland’s winless record.

“This definitely isn’t the type of ball I want to be playing, the type of ball I want to play is leading us to victory in any sort of fashion, whether I go out and complete every bal or don’t complete a ball at all,” he said. “It’s my job to do whatever I can to lead this team to victories and anything short of that is definitely not what I want to be doing.

In 14 starts, Kizer has now thrown nine touchdowns against a league-high 21 interceptions.

“It’s probably one of the more difficult moments of my life. Right now, we’re an 0-15 football team and obviously this is a, no matter how you put it, a historical year in a negative way and I’m the leader of this team as a quarterback,” he said.

“Records typically go on quarterbacks and they go on head coaches and I’m the quarterback of this team that’s going through some tough times … you’ve got to understand what rock bottom looks like before you can climb to the top properly.”

  1. Self-inflicted wounds have plagued the young Browns all season long. Such was the case against the Bears, as Cleveland committed three turnovers and eight penalties that hampered them throughout the afternoon.

In retrospect, one moment stands out above all the others.  

Trailing by a field goal, rookie defensive end Myles Garrett intercepted Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky on the first play of the second half and nearly ran the ball back for a touchdown. Garrett's heroism, however, was wiped out by an offsides penalty on Carl Nassib. Chicago scored three plays later and never looked back.

“That part’s inexcusable, I think obviously Carl will be the first to tell you that. He’s apologized to me in the locker room but it’s just not where we need to be. I think we’ve got to do that part better,” Jackson said.

“That was a huge opportunity there in the game to take a lead and get a little momentum and, again, we’ve all seen it, when you don't get those plays, the other team turns it around and goes and makes the play. When you’re losing like we have, these are the things that come up and these are the plays that start getting made.”

The Browns never quite recovered after that turn of events. The closest they came was later in the third quarter, when wide receiver Rashard Higgins was stripped near the goal line. That turnover ended a promising 7-play 72-yard drive.

The Browns lead the league with 39 giveaways. Jackson admitted he’s surprised how much Cleveland continues to struggle with self-destructing dynamics this late in the year.

“I’m surprised but, I mean, it’s kind of been like this right now,” he said. “Again, I take responsibility for all of it … am I surprised by the things that happen right now? Yeah. But when you’re not winning, these are the things that happen. They just do … we just got to keep working at it. It’s unfortunate, that’s just what it is.”

The Browns play the Chicago Bears in Week 16.

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