BALTIMORE. On the other side of the concrete walls, the screams of the players in the Cleveland Browns locker room could be heard.
Coach Kevin Stefansky called it a “normal football” emotion. Captains Joel Bitonio and Miles Garrett attributed it to “passion”. And quarterback Jacoby Brisset said it showed the Browns were still “struggling.”
Most of all, this indicated the disappointment that spilled out of the 2-5 team after another demoralizing defeat.
The Browns lost 23-20 to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, bringing Cleveland’s 2022 season to the brink in just seven games.
In many ways, the Browns played their best game of the season in Baltimore.
The defense, which has been struggling hard lately, blocked former MVP Lamar Jackson and came up with several critical stops. On offense, the Browns threw the ball effectively (when they passed the ball to Nick Chubb), while Brisset completed an effective 22 of 27 passes for 258 yards.
However, when it came to enough winning games, the Clevelands fell short again.
“We found a way to lose the game,” said Kareem Hunt, running back. “We’ve been doing this a lot.”
The Cleveland task forces failed again. The Browns inexplicably only gave Chubb 16 carries, though Baltimore seemed unable to stop him when they did, allowing him 5.7 yards per carry. Three straight passes early in the third quarter saw Brissette sack and fumble the ball that the Ravens ended up cashing in on their only second-half touchdown.
And yet, the Browns still had the opportunity to change the trajectory of their tumultuous season in the final minutes.
Linebacker Jeremy Owusu-Koramoa stripped running back Justice Hill of the ball as the Ravens were on the verge of quitting play. Defensive end Isaiah Thomas recovered the fumble, giving Cleveland the chance for the game-winning touchdown, or at least the game-tying field goal.
But on third and second from Baltimore’s 34-yard line, Stefanski scored a pass instead of riding Chubb, who only touched the ball once on the drive. Wideout Amari Cooper was credited for offensive pass interference for slightly pushing a defenseman off when he made what would have been a touchdown over the touchline. Although Cooper did not mind the challenge, later saying that pushback “is something I shouldn’t have done”, the tick penalty killed the drive. A questionable false start on lineman Michael Dunn returned Cade Yorke’s 60-yard field goal, which Baltimore blocked to secure the win.
“It shows you the margin of error in this league – it’s very small,” Brisset said. “Go in there and play. … pretty good. Sometimes you still don’t get the results you want.”
After the fourth defeat in a row, “Cleveland” has little room for error. The Sportzshala Football Strength Index gives the Browns only a 6% chance of making the playoffs.
Cleveland can’t save their season with a win over the rising Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football (8:15 pm ET, Sportzshala). However, one more loss will effectively end the season before the Browns make it to the last week to start November.
“No one is going to give up or let this season go, and no one thinks this season is over,” Garrett said. “There is a lot of football to play. …Still ahead. It would be nice to win this game; it would be good for us in the standings and for this division, but we still have a lot of time to fix a lot of the mistakes we made.”
Mathematically, Garrett is not wrong. Psychologically, the cry said otherwise.