Same old Browns, right? The Cleveland Browns once again forked over a first half lead, succumbing to the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday night, 28-7. The Browns led 7-6 at half, but a second half collapse gave the victory to the Ravens and yet another loss to Cleveland, their 10th in as many weeks this season. Through the air, they were led by quarterback Cody Kessler, who threw for 91 yards and a touchdown in just over a half of football. The leading receiver for the Browns was receiver Terrelle Pryor, who caught five passes for 48 yards. On the ground, running back Isaiah Crowell rushed nine times for 23 yards. The Browns once again faltered in the second half, like they seemed to have done all season.
I place a lot of this loss on Browns head coach Hue Jackson. I have been a fan and backer of Jackson for most of the season, but his decision to take out quarterback Cody Kessler in the third quarter and replace him with Josh McCown was befuddling at best. Kessler was 11-of-18 for 91 yards and a touchdown before he was taken out of the game. He was playing solidly. There was no reason to take him out. First of all, he was playing OK and had led the team to a first half lead. But secondly, the front office, coaches, and fans need to see him play. What’s the point of putting in McCown on a 0-9 (now 0-10) team? No reason. The move backfired, with McCown completing just 6-of-13 for 59 yards, two interceptions, and two fumbles, one of which was lost. In my opinion, it was the wrong decision.
The first quarter started off shaky for the Browns, but it ended up being a truce with the Browns and Ravens remaining scoreless. After the opening kickoff and before the Browns first play on defense, they had to call a timeout, showcasing early to the national audience what it is like to be a Browns fan. But, Cleveland’s defense played pretty well in the first quarter, holding the Ravens scoreless. A Briean Boddy-Calhoun interception was a huge play in the quarter, halting a positive drive for Baltimore. The Browns offense was unable to sustain a drive in the quarter.
Both teams got off the schneid in the second quarter. The Ravens kicked off the quarter with a field goal. But, the Browns put their best drive of the game together, driving 75 yards in seven plays to get the go-ahead touchdown. Kessler threw a beautiful 25-yard touchdown pass to his fellow rookie, tight end Seth DeValve. The Browns allowed another Ravens field goal to end the half, but still led, 7-6, over Baltimore heading into the locker room.
The third quarter was a disaster. The Browns went three-and-out on the opening series. On the ensuing drive by the Ravens, the Browns defense allowed a nine-play, 64-yard drive, capped off by a touchdown pass by Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. Then, the complete perplexing decision by Jackson was made, replacing Kessler with McCown at the quarterback spot. McCown subsequently threw an interception and led a three-and-out in his first two drives. Baltimore scored another touchdown on their final drive of the quarter, giving the Ravens a 21-7 lead heading into the final quarter.
The fourth quarter was just like most of the other fourth quarters this season: a slow walk to an inevitable loss. The fourth quarters – over the past few weeks especially – have felt like the walk many Browns fans have made over the past decade after a loss at FirstEnergy Stadium. A slow, subdued shuffle with not much hope to look forward to going forward. The Browns finished the quarter, allowing another touchdown to make the final score, 28-7. They were outscored 22-0 in the second half.
The Browns fell to 0-10, continuing their search for the team’s first win of the season. Next week, they face the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium in another AFC North matchup. At least we get a Browns-free Sunday this coming weekend!