CLEVELAND — **The Browns' loss to the Jets on Sunday was a tale of two halves.
So was the play of quarterback Josh McCown, who took ownership in his postgame press conference following a 31-28 defeat that dropped Cleveland to 0-8 this season.
"One half, we played the way we always talk about playing, the way coach talks about playing and the way we played this week. That is how we played in the first half. In the second half, we didn't. I say we, but I didn't. It starts with me," said McCown, who made his first start since suffering a shoulder/collarbone injury against Baltimore in Week 2.
"I take this one squarely on me. I don't feel like I played to the level that I'm capable of playing at, and that I played to in the first half. I feel like it cost us the ball game."
After mounting a 20-7 lead at halftime, the Browns surrendered 24 unanswered points in the final 30 minutes of play, delivering another frustrating blow to a shorthanded Cleveland team that fell on the wrong end of its fourth game decided by six points or less.
McCown, who passed for 339 yards and a pair of touchdowns, played a key role in helping the Browns have a chance to win in the first place. But two interceptions in the second half proved to be costly, aiding the Jets in their comeback bid.
"He battled hard and played his tail off. Sometimes, you have to hold onto the ball. It is that thing about saying 'uncle,'" head coach Hue Jackson said, referencing the occasional need to throw the ball away while under duress. "Sometimes you can't throw it because those are the things that can happen. Sometimes you are hoping somebody will make a play for you, and you just can't do it. We will get it better."
Sunday's defeat, however, hardly falls just on McCown. Jackson and his teammates made as much clear.
"I don't know anything about playing quarterback. I know we threw the ball a lot. I guess we will have to look in the film, but never is a loss on one guy," left tackle Joe Thomas said. "He had a heck of a first half."
While Cleveland's offense indeed sputtered, the Browns defense — which held New York to 106 yards in the first half — struggled to neutralize big plays through the air and running backs Matt Forte and Bilal Powell on the ground.
McCown, who was medically cleared to play last week, received the starting nod in place of rookie counterpart Cody Kessler, who remains in the league's concussion protocol. And against the league's second-ranked run defense, the Browns asked much of the veteran in his first appearance in more than a month.
"I think that was the gameplan kind of coming in because they are so good at defending the run. They are so stout up front so it was going to be tough to just run the ball consistently on them. That is why you saw us throw the ball as often as we did because they kind of hang their hats on defense on stopping the run," Thomas said.
"They are going to put one more than you have always in the box. They have five or six big guys they can put in there to make it difficult and they are just going to play man coverage in the back end. We knew it was going to be a game that we were probably going to throw it 40 or 50 times."
Even so, McCown declined to make excuses.
"I should have been better. It's a tough feeling because we put so much into the week and the whole organization put so much into the week, getting ready for the games," he said.
"When you have opportunities, you have to take advantage of them. We had a couple there in the second half where we could have distanced ourselves. I just feel like I didn't take advantage of it."