The trend was alarming a few weeks into the season. Now that it's continued into Cleveland's Week 7 preparations for the Buccaneers, Browns offensive coordinator Todd Haley is calling on his group to be who "gets the Browns going early."
The Browns were blanked in last week's first quarter, a game that ended in the team's most lopsided result of the season. Cleveland has yet to score a touchdown in the first quarter and has just six points to show for its 90 minutes' worth of first-quarter action.
As a result, the Browns have faced deficits of varying degrees in every game this season, all but one of which has carried into the fourth quarter.
"We need to do a better job as a group, and I am pointing the thumb at myself of figuring out a way to execute early. That has been a common theme," Haley said after Thursday's practice. "We have been in position to execute early and for one reason or another have not. We have to continue to work hard trying to figure out the best way to get this thing started because I have told the offense very clearly this week that we need to do something to get the Browns going early. We can't wait around and wait for somebody else to do it – for Myles Garrett to make a big sack-fumble or something like that. We have to do it.
"The teams that are able to respond in those difficult situations and continue to move the football and make plays are the ones that have a chance to be pretty good. That is what we are looking for this week is to see a group that has responded a bunch to adversity do it again."
Adversity came in all shapes and forms against the Chargers, including a couple of key injuries, but the Browns were benefactors of promising field position time and time again in Sunday's first half. During a three-series stretch that began midway through the first quarter and ended midway through the second, Cleveland began its drives at its own 46-yard line, Los Angeles' 33 and Los Angeles' 39. All the Browns had to show for it was a single field goal while the Chargers extended their lead to 21-3.
The next two drives to end the first half stretched deep into Chargers territory, but the Browns came away with just one more field goal.
"Things were moving in the right direction, and then again it came down to execution," Haley said. "Third-down situational plays, we have to make plays."
Cleveland's offensive struggles went beyond the first half against the Chargers, and it spanned the entire group. Rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield, in a session in which he described the loss as the worst of his entire football career, put the blame squarely on his shoulders even though the Browns have dealt with injuries and inconsistency at wide receiver.
Haley, understandably, didn't love Sunday's result but viewed it as an important moment in Mayfield's development. Whether he was discussing Mayfield's growth or the Browns' first-quarter struggles, Haley made one thing clear.
It's not what the Browns have already done. What matters most as the Browns eye their remaining 10 games is how they respond.
"He is all business and looking for ways that he can be better," Haley said. "He understands that he has to be better than last week to get us and him where we need to go. The response is what is critical. Bad plays, bad games are going to happen. It is how you respond to those situations that is critical.
"As (former Browns Head Coach) Sam Rutigliano told me one time, 'Sometimes the responses to the crisis is more important than the crises itself.'"