When it comes to the Cleveland Browns, every silver lining gets squeezed, buried and finally obliterated by the black clouds that seem to settle over them every NFL weekend:
- So Sunday, on a day Josh Gordon caught 10 passes for 261 yards and two touchdowns after having 237 yards of receptions the Sunday prior — making him the only player in NFL history to have back to back 200-yard receiving games — all most people could focus on afterward was the bumbling play of quarterback Brandon Weeden, once again.
In the final 79 seconds of the first half Sunday, lowly Jacksonville scored 13 unanswered points thanks to two straight Weeden interceptions and a fumble by him. That put the Browns down 20-13 at the half and with the tone of the game completely changed, Cleveland never could fully recover and lost 32-28.
- On a day when heralded Browns cornerback Joe Haden made an early interception — his fourth of the season — the game ended with Jacksonville scoring the winning touchdown on a 20-yard pass to Cecil Shorts, who got away from Haden in the end zone with 40 seconds left.
In the dressing room afterward, Haden fought back tears during an often-profane meltdown: “I can’t stand losing. It hurts. I go out there and put my heart out there every time. And we end up coming up short. It was my fault on the touchdown. You’re going to come with the same questions every week and we’re going to give you the same answers – ‘We’re going to get better next week.’
“Until we do it then, there’s nothing else to talk about. Straight up.”
- Just a few weeks ago the Browns had their playoff hopes alive in the AFC North. Now they have lost six of their last seven games. Although the crowd was announced at 69,654, many seats in FirstEnergy Stadium were empty at kickoff. And next week when the team travels to play the New England Patriots, it will likely have its fourth starting quarterback of the season.
Some 40 minutes after Sunday’s game, as media members waited in the nearly deserted Browns dressing room for Weeden to return to his locker, a team spokesman came out and announced that after the game the quarterback was found to have a concussion.
He wouldn’t be allowed to talk to the press.
Weeden’s backup is Alex Tanney, who was just signed off the Dallas Cowboys practice squad and has never played in a regular season NFL game.
Not that he could have had a much worse time of it than Weeden did at the end of the first half.
His first interception was thrown into coverage, a miscue the Jaguars soon turned into a touchdown. As soon as he got the ball back, Weeden missed Greg Little and threw his second pick, which moments later became a Jacksonville a 44-yard field goal.
When he got the ball back one last time before intermission, he fumbled with five seconds left and Jacksonville promptly kicked a 36-yard field goal.
Midway through the fourth quarter with the Browns back on their 5-yard line, center Alex Mack snapped the ball over Weeden’s head. With defenders coming, Weeden kicked the ball out of the back of the end zone for a safety that gave Jacksonville a 22-21 lead.
Although it was a smart play on his part — saving what could have been a Jacksonville fumble recovery for a touchdown — Weeden still was booed.
He gets the raspberries all the time now.
Other Browns quarterbacks in recent times — Tim Couch and Derek Anderson especially — were booed, too. But this is different.
Fans react to Weeden the way they once did to the Andre Rison, who was despised by the time he left here.
Weeden claims he pays no attention to the derision, but don’t believe that.
He told the Cleveland Plain Dealer last week that he quit Twitter because “I don’t need 5-year-old kids telling me how to play the quarterback position.”
He also intimated that he knows his time may be short in Cleveland. He was already demoted twice this year — when backup Brian Hoyer took over and then when third-stringer Jason Campbell was given the job. With both of those guys hurt, he got the job again by default.
“For the next five weeks I’m a Cleveland Brown,” he told the Plain Dealer. “After that whatever happens is out of my control.”
I don’t see any way the Browns bring him back next year.
But Gordon — who has a better on-field connection with Weeden than anyone — defended his besieged quarterback after the game.
“Brandon does a great job for us as much as he gets knocked around,” Gordon said. “He hasn’t complained, hasn’t been down from the boos and everything. I don’t think anybody — not half the man — could take what he takes week in and week out, social media-wise, interview-wise and out here on the field with people booing him like that… It’s rough on you. I definitely appreciate everything he has done.”
The best thing Weeden has done of late is throw the ball in Gordon’s direction. The young receiver is catching everything in sight.
His record -setting day Sunday came even though he missed most of the third quarter after suffering a blow to the head that brought Jaguar safety Winston Guy a 15-yard penalty.
Gordon was taken to the dressing room for tests, found to be okay and returned to the field late in the third quarter and — with the crowd cheering him.
The most dynamic play of the game came with 3:55 left in the fourth quarter and Cleveland — trailing by four — on its own 5. Weeden hit Gordon over the middle and the 6-foot-3 receiver then raced the length of the field, outrunning to Jaguar defenders for a 95-yard TD reception.,
Right after that, though, Jacksonville — which came into the game 2-9 — drove back down the field and scored the winning TD.
Although Gordon missed the first two games this season with a drug suspension, he has 1,249 receiving yards this season. With 50 more he’ll break Braylon Edwards club-record of 1,298. That was set in 2007 over 16 games.
After the game though, Gordon said he “really can’t enjoy” what he has done the past two weeks.
“Individually it’s great,” he said. “If this was one of those individual sports it would be easier to accept. But this is a team sport … and for us it’s about winning.
“As a young player I think I’m definitely being dealt a rough hand but how I deal with it will make me a better ball player… And maybe one day when I’m a lot older I’ll be able to look back and say I did something great here.”
First though he’ll have to escape these ever-present black clouds.