CLEVELAND — The Browns found themselves in another close game Sunday on a snowy afternoon at FirstEnergy Stadium. Then, like so many times this season, they lamented another missed opportunity to earn their first win afterward.
This time, it was against Jacksonville and the narrow defeat ultimately was decided in the final minutes. Thanks to another impressive defensive performance, the Browns hung tough with one of the NFL's best teams before stumbling late.
That, coach Hue Jackson said, has been the difference in a winless season that has been underscored by self-inflicted wounds and close calls.
"We still had an opportunity," he said Monday. "We just have to learn how to finish."
After watching his group fall to 0-10 this season and 1-25 over the past two years, Jackson said the young Browns are still learning how to win. Sunday was another frustrating example of that.
"We have to learn to make those plays. It doesn't matter how young we are. When those plays present themselves, you have to make them," he said. "We can't melt at those times."
Jackson focused on that dynamic in a wide-ranging news conference, praising players for their effort while acknowledging that, alone, doesn't translate to success for a team with a small margin for error.
"Our team plays hard. They play extremely hard. They try, but trying and playing hard in the National Football League just gives you a chance," he said. "You have to do it. That's just the way this league is, and I think our players to a man can see that more and more, but it's going to take a little more than what we are doing in these critical moments."
The Browns were unable to take advantage of those kinds of situations Sunday. They trailed 10-7 late into the fourth quarter and still had chances to win before Jacksonville strip-sacked rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer twice in the final two minutes. Those moments, Jackson said, are when the team needs to rise up.
"We have been in more football games than any of you think we should be in. Let's just be honest. We have," he said. "That's because we ask our players to play extremely hard. They do what we ask them for the most part to do. The difference is, we haven't gotten over the hump to winning and those key moments where they are making those plays consistently in the fourth quarter where they're making them in the first quarter. That's what you have to do to win in this league. The fourth quarter is where you win games in this league for the most part."
Jackson said the Browns simply "have to learn how to win" with six more games — including four road trips — remaining on the schedule.
"You've been in a lot of close games, but you haven't done it," he said.
"The football team or your teammates, whoever is counting on you, we have guys that should be making those plays. They have to make them. Until you do it and get on the other side of it and win, you don't do it. It's just that simple."