- Hue Jackson called Sunday's game a "step back" for DeShone Kizer, who struggled with costly turnovers for a second consecutive week.
The rookie quarterback threw two interceptions, one coming inside the red zone, and lost a fumble that was recovered for a touchdown in Sunday's 27-10 loss to the Ravens. Outside of a run-dominant, 96-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter, Cleveland's offense wasn't able to sustain much consistency against a Baltimore defense that finished with nine forced turnovers against the Browns in two games this season.
"I think in those times of stress he has to think through it and make the right decision and not let it take him over. That is what it felt like," Jackson said. "I want to watch the tape and see everything he saw, but again, he can make those plays better. We have all seen him do it better, but we have also see, all of a sudden when it goes off the rails, it goes off the rails. He has to get better that way."
One week after he tossed a career-best three touchdowns and completed better than 75 percent of his passes against the Packers, Kizer finished 20-of-37 for 146 yards. His longest throw went 23 yards, as Baltimore's defense bottled up top receivers Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman and limited the duo to six catches for 63 yards.
Kizer's first interception came in the first quarter, when he overthrew Coleman deep down the field. His second came early in the fourth quarter on third-and-five from the 6-yard line, when he scrambled before throwing the ball in a crowd of Ravens, who had Kizer's intended target, Isaiah Crowell, surrounded. Brandon Carr came away with the pick to put an unfortunate end to a Cleveland drive that went 69 yards on nine plays.
"I was trying to give him an opportunity to get to the ball," Kizer said. "The ball came a little short on me and ended up with a good play by the defense."
Jackson said he wants Kizer to finish the season as the starter "if he can," but stressed he'd need to watch the film before moving forward with his preparation for next week's game at Chicago.
The second half of Kizer's rookie season has featured some of his best and worst moments in the NFL. He wants the next two games to provide the kind of momentum he and the players who surround him can ride into the offseason.
"I signed up for 16 games this year with the potential to go up to the playoffs," Kizer said. "With that being said, it is on me to make sure that I give my complete effort and continue to push as far as I can to finish out the season. We have two opportunities in front of us to go out and get a couple of wins to create some momentum going into the offseason. Personally, myself individually, it is on me to make sure that I continue to prove who I am not only to the front office and my head coach but to my teammates."
- Jackson said there was nothing Kizer could have done to avoid his ill-fated strip sack in the end zone.
Za'Darius Smith raced around the edge, past left tackle Spencer Drango, and swatted the ball away as Kizer was going through his throwing motion. Nose tackle Brandon Williams fell on the ball for a Baltimore touchdown that made it a 14-point deficit.
"Spencer wasn't able to get the guy stopped," Jackson said. "The guy beat him and got him. That is unfortunate, but I think all of that as a young quarterback, all of that starts to pile on you. All of a sudden you are taking a quick-game throw and then you get hit. There were a couple of other quick-game throws, and he was still getting hit. We have to do better protecting him and he has to do better protecting himself, but he also has to do a better job of protecting the ball."
It was a tough moment for Drango, who has drawn a number of the league's top pass rushers since taking over for future Hall of Fame left tackle Joe Thomas. Most of Drango's day was spent against 15-year veteran Terrell Suggs.
"Obviously, I need to improve," Drango said. "But I think I've proven myself that I can play with these guys. It's not perfect but perfection is something to strive for. I know I have a long way to go."
- Sam Koch had the ball bouncing exactly the way he wanted, and the Browns offense paid a big price because of it.
Baltimore's Pro Bowl punter pinned the Browns inside their own 4-yard line on three separate occasions. The following drives resulted in two three-and-outs and one of the biggest turning points of the game, when Kizer was strip-sacked in the end zone for a Baltimore touchdown.
Cleveland's offense went three-and-out five times Sunday.
The only punt Jabrill Peppers was able to return went for 11 yards in the first half.
"That's why he's a Pro Bowl punter. He was getting those bounces," Peppers said. "Anybody that's a punt returner or know punt returning, you don't field it if it bounces inside the 10. I bump it down to 8, but it's the 10-yard rule. I was thinking it'd roll into the end zone, but he gets those good bounces. Sometimes the ball rolls your way, sometimes it doesn't."
The Browns play the Baltimore Ravens in Week 15.