- DeShone Kizer thought the drought was finally over when he scrambled to his left and spotted a wide-open Rashard Higgins running down the middle of the field.
Faced with a third-and-2 in overtime, Kizer rolled to his left after his first option, Josh Gordon, was taken away from the play. Veteran Clay Matthews chased from behind. Kizer watched Higgins roll away from his defender and run toward wide open space.
“I think that you strike up the band there and enjoy our first win of this year,” Kizer said.
Instead, Matthews caught Kizer from behind. The linebacker swatted Kizer’s arm as he threw, the ball popped in the air and the Packers had the game-changing interception they needed to complete the comeback victory.
The interception was Kizer’s second of the game and most painful to swallow. It overshadowed what had been one of his most complete performances of the season, as he threw a career-high three touchdowns and completed better than 71 percent of his passes.
It just wasn’t enough to get the same, bitter feeling out of his mouth as he addressed reporters after Cleveland’s 13th loss of the season.
“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 all is about getting towards that win,” Kizer said. “When you don’t get to that at the end of the game, it hurts.”
Browns coach Hue Jackson said the performance was “by far” Kizer’s best until the late interception. But those game-changing plays are a big part of a young quarterback’s development.
“Just understanding the situation – if you need to and it is not there, maybe just throw it away, we play defense and give us a chance. Obviously, he was trying to make play,” Jackson said. “Just understanding who you are playing against – that was Matthews coming off that edge. He is a crafty guy. He is going to find a way to get a hand on you to make a play for their football team, and that is my point about players making plays in critical moments. He was able to make the play and we weren’t.”
- The Browns got their most production of the season from their wide receivers, as Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman combined for eight catches, 131 yards and two touchdowns.
Kizer found both of the players in the end zone in tough situations, throwing his passes in tight spaces and allowing the receivers to make plays. Sunday’s game was particularly encouraging for Coleman, who failed to catch a pass in last week’s loss to the Chargers.
“Corey made some plays. Corey showed up to the game and came to play,” Jackson said. “Obviously, the touchdown and had some huge catches in the game. I think that part is coming together. I thought I saw some chemistry there with all of the passing game. It goes differently week in and week out.
“Last week, it was the tight ends. This week, it was the receivers and the backs. We just have to continue to find ways to move the ball well enough to score enough points. We are not scoring enough points to win.”
- Green Bay was able to pile up the yards and points in the fourth quarter thanks to a Brett Hundley-led passing game that relied on short, quick throws. And when the Browns had the opportunity to bring the young quarterback to the ground, he often slipped from their grasp, extended the play and turned it into something positive.
Cleveland collected one sack on the day, Nate Orchard’s second of the season with 4:39 to play in the first quarter. Hundley had been sacked 23 times in the previous seven games.
“I don’t think we made the quarterback as uncomfortable as we needed to in order to get him off the spot,” Jackson said. “Obviously, the young kid made some plays with his legs and with his arm. We have to go back and take a look at that.”
The Browns play the Green Bay Packers in Week 14.