Battered, bruised and frustrated. That summed up the mood behind the podium and inside the walls of the Browns locker room after Sunday's lopsided, 37-3 loss to the Bengals.
The loss was Cleveland's seventh in a row, fourth consecutive to division opponents. This one hit hard for the Browns in both a literal and figurative sense, as the team played from behind for the majority of the game and steadily saw a number of its top offensive contributors sidelined by injuries.
Mike Pettine called Sunday's performance at FirstEnergy Stadium simply a "tough day on all fronts." In his post-game remarks, he echoed a sentiment he shared with the team in a meeting Saturday night.
"You find out who you are. It's a healthy dose of adversity and guys respond to it in different ways," Pettine said. "Some guys, you'd never know whether it's 9-2 and 2-9, you'd never know the difference and those are the guys you take your hat off to. They come in every day, professional and they do their work. They come out; they play hard.
"From a coaching standpoint, when things aren't going well and you have losses like this, the questions come up. You just have to make sure as you question everything that you realize this is our core, this is what we're doing well, these are areas we need to improve. If you have something wrong with your heart, you don't want to operate on the brain. You want to make sure that you have a good understanding of what's wrong and how to get it fixed."
Joe Thomas has experienced a handful of moments like this at this point of a regular season. It hasn't gotten easier for the Pro Bowl left tackle, but he stressed these moments are "when you should be working the hardest."
"Nobody wants to lose. Nobody wants to be on a team that is losing or a 2-10 team," Thomas said. "Part of being a professional is putting the scoreboard or the record behind you and playing the same way every day. That is my mindset, and that is what I am going to implore my teammates to do."
The Browns have four games left to play, the next coming Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. The optimism Pettine and Thomas share about the final month stem from what they believe in the people who surround them.
With a number of veteran players dealing with injuries, some of the team's younger members will see increased opportunities to impress and prove they belong on this kind of stage. The circumstances aren't desirable, but they're what the Browns will face and are tasked to overcome.
"We talk about embrace the opportunity, and it's an opportunity to go out and compete in a game that we love," Pettine said. "When things finally do turn the other way, this is what you remember. It's easy, the good times, but it's the bad ones that you remember because you know that that's when we found out who we were going to build it on. That's the message now for us is that we're going to find out a lot about ourselves in these next couple of weeks."