CLEVELAND (WJW/AP) — Anyone inside FirstEnergy Stadium or watching on TV was just as stunned after Cleveland blew a two-touchdown lead in the final 1:55 and lost 31-30 to the New York Jets on Sunday.
The Browns (1-1) were moments from their first 2-0 start in 29 years when the floor fell out from under them. An epic collapse, even by Cleveland’s lowly standards.
Browns coach Kevin Stefanski and players on Monday afternoon talked to the media about the game. All cited a breakdown in communication on Sunday.
“In practice, we go through periods where we have crowd noise. … When we’re on the defense, guys get the call and we gotta spread the call around to the entire defense,” said defensive end Denzel Ward. “Everyone doesn’t get the exact call and that’s what messed things up in the game.
“I think it’s an easy fix.”
A home opener with the usual pomp and plenty of positives before an energized, sellout crowd will instead be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
Leading 30-17 with 1:55 left, the Browns missed an extra point, gave up a 66-yard TD pass with 1:22.
“We have to be able to defend the pass in those obvious passing situations and we have to — everybody — be on the same page,” Stefanski said Monday. “Those are the types of things we have to get fixed immediately. That was the only way we could have let them back in that game.”
The team also failed to recover an onside kick and then let Joe Flacco finish them with a 15-yard touchdown pass to rookie Garrett Wilson with 22 seconds left.
Cleveland’s last chance ended when Jacoby Brissett, who played the final few minutes on a sore ankle, threw an interception with six seconds to go. Stefanski said Monday he thought Brissett “played well” and “saw clearly” and that the late interception was more the Jets’ play.
As Flacco dropped to his knee at mid-field — directly on top of Cleveland’s elf logo making its comeback debut — to run out the clock, the Jets celebrated wildly on their sideline while some in the home crowd let the Browns know how they felt.
“I mean the more disappointing thing was the booing at the end,” star defensive end Myles Garrett, said on Sunday. “It was not the most optimal ending that we’d want. Of course we’d want to win. Of course we wanted to play out the game and it end 30-16 or 30-17 or whatever it was, we get a pick or a strip-sack and end the game.
“But that’s not always how it goes.”
Guard Joel Bitonio told reporters Sunday’s game was “up there” with the most frustrating losses of his career. But nobody’s “pointing fingers.” As for the fans, he said the game itself was more bothersome.
“They’re obviously disappointed. I’ve been here nine years now. I’ve been booed at least once every year,” he told reporters. “They spent their hard-earned money in support of the team and they’re disappointed, just like we’re disappointed. You love the fans and the support they give. It’s a frustrating aspect to it.
“Hopefully we don’t give them a reason to boo in the future.”
The Browns have little time to dwell on their collapse. They host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night.
“At the end of the day, we win, lose or tie as a team,” said tight end David Njoku. “That’s one of our biggest standards; one of the things we live by. It’s very upsetting, but the time to think about the Jets has passed. Now, we’re focused on the Steelers.”
Here’s an archived live blog of their comments:
Defensive end Denzel Ward
- Ward on the Browns’ intention to “clean up”: “Its communication-wise. In practice, we go through periods where we have crowd noise. … When we’re on the defense, guys get the call and we gotta spread the call around to the entire defense. Everyone doesn’t get the exact call and that’s what messed things up in the game.”
- On fans booing the team: “That’s their decision. We just go out there trying to find a way to win. … We just gotta find a way to be better and try to get a win.”
- On the team sticking together: “We were in the game, we just gotta find a way to finish. That’s our plan for next game: Find a way to communicate and find a way to win a game.”
- On the miscommunications: “I think it’s an easy fix. We just gotta make sure we overcommunicate when we’re out there and make sure everybody’s on the same page.”
Denzel Ward thinks the miscommunication issues that’s hurt the #Browns secondary in the first two games can be fixed in time for Pittsburgh on Thursday.— John Sabol (@John_Sabol) September 19, 2022
Ward calls the miscommunications an “Easy Fix”.@fox8news
Guard Joel Bitonio
- Bitonio said Sunday’s game was “up there” with the most frustrating losses of his career. But nobody’s “pointing fingers.”
- On the mood inside the locker room: “I think everybody’s in the right mindset. I think if you weren’t still disappointed in the performance yesterday, I think there’d be an issue with that. But I think guys are ready to move on and make it 1 and 0 this week.”
- He said he felt Quarterback Jacoby Brissett looked “really sharp” Sunday.
- He said it can be “tough” to get ready for a mid-week game after one day of practice, but it’s all about “getting your body back” and ready to play.
- On the fans booing: “They’re obviously disappointed. I’ve been here nine years now. I’ve been booed at least once every year. They spent their hard-earned money in support of the team and they’re disappointed, just like we’re disappointed. You love the fans and the support they give. It’s a frustrating aspect to it. … Hopefully we don’t give them a reason to boo in the future. … The game bothered me more than the fans.”
I asked Joel Bitonio about #Browns fans booing yesterday. He said he was more bothered by the game than the fans. “Hopefully we don’t give them a reason to boo in the future.”— John Sabol (@John_Sabol) September 19, 2022
He added he understands why fans were upset and also wasn’t bothered by it. @fox8news
Safety Grant Delpit
- On who was supposed to give coverage on the Jets’ 66-yard touchdown pass: “I’m not gonna play the blame game on my teammates, so I’m just gonna leave it at ‘communication error.'”
- On how to resolve communication issues: “Just make sure we talk and everybody’s on the same page. … It’s early in the season so it’s happening now — it’s better than happening later. We can get it fixed.”
Coach Kevin Stefanski
- On the injured list are: safety Jadeveon Davarus Clowney, defensive end Chase Winovich and tight end Jesse James.
- On the Jets’ 66-yard TD pass: “We have to be able to defend the pass in those obvious passing situations and we have to — everybody — be on the same page. It’s frustrating we weren’t. And I know it happened previous in week one as well. Those are the types of things we have to get fixed immediately. That was the only way we could have let them back in that game.”
- On the possibility of switching lineups to resolve communication issues: “With anything — offense, defense, special teams — of course you’re always looking for the right lineup out there that gives you the best chance. Let me be clear: Anything that happens out there I gotta get fixed. That’s on me.”
- On the advantage of having another game so soon: “I do think it’s good we have a game Thursday. I think back to 2020: a very tough loss in that first game and then right back at it at home versus a division opponent. I do think that’s beneficial to get out on the field today and get out on the field Thursday night.”
- He said he thought quarterback Jacoby Brissett “played well” and “saw clearly.” He said he felt Brissett’s late interception was more the Jets’ play.
Kevin Stefanski on Nick Chubb scoring with 1:55 left in the game and not calling him to kneel down:— John Sabol (@John_Sabol) September 19, 2022
“I wish I’d told the offensive huddle not to score there but up 13 points inside two minutes we had plenty of opportunities to win that game.” #Browns @fox8news
Tight end David Njoku
- Njoku said he feels quarterback Jacoby Brissett “is a competitor”: “I think he played at a very high level. Obviously, everybody could have done some things better for us to get that win. We gotta just pick up the pieces and think about the Steelers this Thursday.”
- On his touchdown pass caught out of bounds: “It’s a matter of having big feet. It is what it is. But that’s a play I should make every single time. Like I said, I will be better.”
- On “finger-pointing” and blame-laying among teammates: “As a whole, we’re very close and I don’t believe there is any finger-pointing right now. Everyone’s upset, disappointed. At the end of the day, we win, lose or tie as a team. That’s one of our biggest standards; one of the things we live by. It’s very upsetting, but the time to think about the Jets has passed. Now, we’re focused on the Steelers.”
Anthony Walker admitted he needs to do a better job communicated plays on defense. While no members of #Browns secondary called out Walker, they kept calling these issues an ‘easy fix’, it might really just be a communication error with Walker & rotating out too often. @fox8news— John Sabol (@John_Sabol) September 19, 2022