CINCINNATI — Since taking over as the Browns' starting quarterback, DeShone Kizer has spoken of growing with each and every passing week.
But after Sunday's loss to the Bengals, the rookie says that can't be his focus as Cleveland continues a frustrating search for its first win.
"I don't think it's about the development anymore," he said in his postgame news conference. "Obviously it's about making myself better and feeling like I'm performing better, but when you see a group of 60-something guys out there every day putting their bodies on the line, you've got to reward them with a win."
Kizer, who missed one series while being evaluated for a possible concussion, did his best to try to make that happen on a sunny afternoon in Cincinnati. Despite falling behind by as many as 16 points, the Browns rallied in the fourth quarter when Kizer's 3-yard keeper cut the deficit to a touchdown with under seven minutes to play.
That score punctuated a bounce-back performance for Kizer, who passed for 268 yards on 18-of-31 attempts and ran for another 39 after struggling against the Jaguars the week before. "Any time after a game that I feel good about where the ball was being delivered, that's a good thing. I thought he played better today," head coach Hue Jackson said. "I still think he is capable of playing at a higher level, and it's our job as a coaching staff to get him there in the next five weeks."
Kizer, a second-round pick from Notre Dame, lamented not being able to do more. "It's about doing whatever it takes to win. Whether it's turnovers, whether it's taking care of the ball, it all goes into winning," said Kizer, who has made strides in that area with the exception of last week.
Those things — or what Kizer and Jackson described as "small projects" earlier this season — have been a focus as he continues to navigate what's been a first-year campaign of highs and lows.
"When you're a rookie quarterback in this league, you're looking for the small wins. I think we're done with small wins," he said. "It's about getting out there in these last five games of the season and doing whatever it takes to get a victory on the board."