CLEVELAND — The rollercoaster that has been Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer's rookie season was on display in Sunday's overtime loss to the Packers.
Kizer had stretches when he flashed big-time potential on a cold day at FirstEnergy Stadium. In others, he regressed back to old habits as Cleveland watched a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter dissipate down the stretch.
"I asked our guys is to be the best version of themselves today. That's what they did. I thought that was the best version of us as a football team – offensively, defensively and special teams – up until the fourth quarter when we need it the most," coach Hue Jackson said. "That's what we have to do. We have to finish it."
The afternoon was a microcosm of a young team that continues to stumble in pivotal moments and Kizer's first year under center. While the second-round pick tossed three touchdown passes (matching the most by a rookie in franchise history), his two interceptions -- including a backbreaking one in overtime -- foiled that promising display. Jackson said Kizer's performance was "by far" his best this season before the team unraveled late. "It's still the same old if you turn the ball over, you're going to lose," he said. "You can't turn the football over."
Kizer's first pick first came 22 seconds before halftime. The second — a heave into traffic on third-and-2 in overtime — sealed the team's fate and punctuated Green Bay's late comeback. A few plays later, Packers quarterback Brett Hundley tossed a quick pass to Davante Adams, who slipped multiple tackles and ran untouched into the end zone.
"It hurts. Obviously, when you start tasting a little victory throughout the game, you start riding that and you start remembering all of the things that go into winning and how it all is about getting toward that win," Kizer said. "When you don't get to that at the end of the game, it hurts."
That's why he shrugged off what was an otherwise solid outing that showcased his strengths, weaknesses and everything in between. "We'll go back and watch the film to see what opportunities we had there to make some more plays and re-evaluate where I'm at and the strides I was able to make in that game," he said.
In the meantime, Kizer and company will go back to the drawing board with a shrinking window to win their first game.
"You have to continue to grind. You have to understand that there's a bigger message. There's light at the end of this tunnel," he said. "If we continue to put forth the effort that coach continues to ask out of us, we'll get over this hill."
That, of course, includes the young Kizer.
"Every time I step out onto the field, whether it be practice or whether it be a game, it's about doing whatever I can to prove to my teammates and to this organization who I am as a quarterback and as a competitor," he said.
"I look forward to being in Cleveland for a long time and I look forward to winning for a long time. Every time I step out there and every rep that I get, it is about making sure everyone knows exactly who I am."