Hue Jackson and the Browns have broken down their season into four quarters, and a trip to Washington this weekend marks the end of the first period.
"Our record isn't what we want it to be, but at the same time we know that we're still working at trying to get that first victory," Jackson said Monday afternoon. [
"But I told the guys as we continue to work and we get that first one, and you get that feeling you start getting some confidence in what you're doing and who knows what could happen. What we've got to do is stay to it."
No moral victories
Jackson said Sunday after a 30-24 overtime loss to the Dolphins that the team wouldn't take solace in"feel good stories" or moral victories. "I'm going to say it again: from the first day I came … I didn't come here to lose, and I'm not going to change that. I'm not going to let our players feel like that. I did not come here to lose.
"We came down here on a flight, and we expected to beat Miami, and we didn't. And kudos to them. They were able to finish the game and won the game here at home."
Jackson reiterated that sentiment Monday. "You want to see growth week in and week out but let's make no mistake: this is football, it's about winning and losing," he said. "We play a game and they keep score ... we've got to get on the other side of the ledger."
To be sure, Jackson said he continues to see improvement from a Browns team that went toe-to-toe with Miami amid an array of injuries to the starting lineup.
"I'm probably more determined than I am discouraged but I do get that we'll be judged by wins and losses and not by anything else and that's the way it should be," Jackson said.
He added: "It's a fight and we've got to fight to get over the hump. But I don't want anybody to think I'm discouraged about what's going on, I know exactly what's going on. And I think there's still working to be done in a lot of different areas to get us where we want to be, but I don't think anybody can question how hard this team fights and their grit and their toughness because I've watched it improve week in and week out and there's still more to give."
Jackson said outside linebacker Nate Orchard "will be out for a little while" after suffering a high ankle sprain on the final play and starting nickel Tramon Williams is "day to day" after injuring the AC joint in his shoulder.
Other than that, Jackson said he was relatively pleased to leave Miami without major injuries.
Jackson added the Browns will hopefully have cornerback Joe Haden back against the Redskins after the Pro Bowler sat out Sunday with a groin strain.
The Browns, of course, have already lost quarterbacks Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown to shoulder injuries, rookie receiver Corey Coleman (hand), defensive end Carl Nassib (hand) and center Cameron Erving (lung).
Perhaps lost in the shuffle of what was a game of momentum swings and big plays was Cody Kessler's two-point conversion pass to Gary Barnidge, one of several clutch throws from the rookie quarterback. The play brought the Browns within a field goal of Miami's lead and set the stage for a fourth quarter comeback that forced overtime.
"We had an opportunity to make it a three-point game and I wanted to give a ball to Gary. We worked on that play all week. We worked on that as our two-point play all week," Kessler said.
"We got the look we wanted with man (coverage) on Gary and I just wanted to put it up there and give him a chance to catch it. Obviously, we cut the lead down to three. We did that and things kept rolling after that. We went down and made another field goal and tied the game up. We had a lot of momentum at times but we just have to finish."
A tough job
Jackson refused to place blame on new kicker Cody Parkey, who joined the team Saturday morning and promptly was thrown into the fire against Miami the next afternoon.
"That's a tough job, I challenge any of us to come in here on a flight late Friday night, wake up and meet the coach for a second and then get on another flight and head to Miami and not know really a lot of your teammates but some and walk out and go kick and pre-game and then go kick in a game where you attempt five of these field goals," Jackson said.
Parkey, who earned a trip to the Pro Bowl with the Eagles in 2014, made 3-of-6 attempts that kept the Browns in the game but also missed a would-be game winner from 46 yards.
"That's a lot of pressure and then here's the game-winner sitting right in your face," Jackson said. "I can't put that on him, that's a tough situation."
Speaking of finishing, that's something the Browns have zeroed in on after close losses to the Dolphins and the Ravens last weekend. Of course, unlike the Baltimore game, Cleveland fought back from an 11-point deficit before ultimately falling to Miami in overtime.
"We've got to learn how to finish those close games – just the big plays here and there, just gain momentum back. We've just got to finish, that's what it all boils down to," linebacker Christian Kirksey said Sunday.
"We've got to learn how to do it. Hue Jackson is stressing us and he's stressing the fact winning is everything. That's what this league is about. So once we get that worked on, I think we'll be fine. We've just got to keep practicing, keep going forward and it's going to make our story that much better."
Jackson said he's been encouraged by the "resiliency of our guys, I like the grit."
"The guys fought hard and at the end of it all we had a chance to win the game and we didn't," he said Monday. "The truth of the matter is we've got to finish."