The Browns' hopes of shocking the NFL with a run toward the playoffs hit a big snag in Houston.
In the days and weeks leading up to Sunday's game, coach Gregg Williams used the team's playoff ambitions as a motivator. He didn't run from it, and neither did the players.
In the aftermath of Sunday's 29-13 loss to the Texans, Williams remained steadfast. Even though the math is even more against the team's ultimate ambitions, Williams liked what he saw from the Browns as they experienced and processed a loss that sent them to 4-7-1 on the season.
It started with rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield, who had his worst half as a pro in a first half that saw the Browns get outscored 23-0. The team's other leaders were the same.
"He never once, on the sideline, did he back off. And that's what good leaders do," Williams said. "(Joe) Schobert was the same way. Myles (Garrett) was the same way. Orson (Charles) was the same way. The spirit on the sideline never diminished. We've just got to execute better. And it's about execution in a few untimely plays, we've got to do a better job of that."
Even in the moments after Sunday's loss, Browns players didn't flinch about how the team would approach the final four games.
Though the odds are steep, Cleveland hasn't been officially mathematically eliminated. And there's still a shot to finish with a winning record for the first time in 11 years.
That, of course, would require winning out. Accomplishing that kind of feat was brought up by multiple players inside the visiting locker room at NRG Stadium.
"We want them all. We wanted this one. There's no secret about it. Now it's time to get back home," wide receiver Jarvis Landry said. "We have a home game this week after the two-game road stretch. Change the tide and win a game."
The final four games pit the Browns against teams with similar playoff ambitions. All four -- Panthers, Broncos, Bengals and Ravens -- are still very much in the hunt for the playoffs and face similar, must-win stakes. If Cleveland wins Sunday, it'd deal the Panthers their fifth straight loss and severely hinder their playoff chances. The Broncos, at 6-6, are one game back of the Ravens, who would have the final AFC playoff spot if the season ended today.
"Anything can happen," Mayfield said. "We have to take care of our business and put us in a good position to be there in the end. All we can take care of is what we're doing and let the rest fall into pieces. Got to get better, got to use this, learn from it, and that's one of the better teams we're going to play all year.
"If we can use this as a positive thing moving forward and get better from that, that will be great."