JACKSONVILLE – In less than a week, the 3-3 Cleveland Browns went from being national media darlings to the hapless, inconsistent –yet lovable—team that infuriates their own fans after a 24-6 loss to the winless Jacksonville Jaguars.
After pulling off a miraculous 25-point road comeback against Tennessee and destroying long-time bully Pittsburgh, 31-10, the one-time division-dwelling Browns went from lovable dysfunctional losers to overnight national media kings as they were on ESPN and NFL Network news loops seemingly 24-7, ranging from local product Brian Hoyer and his contract—courtesy of yellow journalism content farm, Bleacher Report—to the rise of jersey sales of both Hoyer and Johnny Manziel.
Always seen as a team on the outside trying to crack the proverbial NFL invisible shield of legitimacy, Cleveland has always stumbled at the most inopportune time, when the moment finally arrives.
Case in point, their 18-point loss to a team that was 0-6.
Going into the game, many already put this into the win column for the Browns—and rightfully so—as they were who many thought they were in being 0-6 with a top-five rookie quarterback in Blake Bortles, what could go wrong right?
While winless, Jacksonville, has always been a jinx and proverbial bad luck charm to the Browns going back to their days in the old AFC Central. Bottlegate anyone?
That on top of the other local product not named Hoyer in Cecil Shorts III—from Cleveland public school, Collinwood and Division III powerhouse, Mount Union—torching Joe Haden for the game-winning touchdown last year in Cleveland, this had all the makings of the dreaded “trap game”.
A winless team at home, that seems to have your number?
No, not the 0-6 Jaguars and the upstart Cinderella media-darling du jour Brownies, who were a six-point road favorite? After their first series, this had all the makings of a long day from the orange helmets in northern Florida.
The loss of Pro Bowl center, Alex Mack—widely regarded as the best in the NFL—was obvious as the makeshift offensive line looked lost and incoherent against a relentless pass rush that made the self-proclaimed golden boy Hoyer look like the journeyman backup that he was.
With a re-made line sans Mack, the Jaguars practically lived in the Browns backfield all day in getting on Hoyer’s face, stuffing Ben Tate, Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell.
Hoyer didn’t help his contract extension negotiations—via the Cleveland-area media—in missing on some throws, even though five of them were batted down by Jacksonville defenders.
For the game, Hoyer went 16-of-41 for 215 yards and one interception.
Forget the brief national love affair called the American Hoyer Story, this was more like the FX series, American Horror Story, for real.
For the record, I like Hoyer and hope that the Browns retain him for another two to three years and let Manziel develop. Hopefully, Browns general manager Ray Farmer does not give in to the Cleveland fan mob insisting that Manziel starts because of one bad game.
Hoyer is no Derek Anderson, but unfortunately he looked more like former Mr. Fix-It Felix Browns QB of yesteryear, Kelly Holcomb.
The words “patient” and “quarterback development” are two that are not often associated with the Browns fan base and organization, but they must show restraint and stick with Hoyer for now.
One game does not a bad quarterback make. Same old Browns, maybe.
Cleveland’s defense—such as poor open-field tackling on Allen Robinson’s 31-yard touchdown reception—and special teams didn’t help the Browns either as they enabled converted former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson to look like Barry Sanders running for 127 yards on 22 carries and one touchdown.
Jordan Poyer’s attempt to fair catch a punt that careened off of his shoulder pad, would be recovered by the Jags—which Robinson would eventually score the game-clinching touchdown—proved to be the painful nail in the Browns coffin.
No heart-attack inducing comeback for the Browns today.
Mind you the Browns were minus Phil Taylor, Ahtyba Rubin and Billy Winn, injuries are part of the game in the NFL.
Going forward, this loss will sting the neophyte Browns—who must learn to deal with success—now must learn to rebound from a loss to a team that many pegged them to beat.
All talk of Hoyer’s contract extension and Manziel coming in to proverbially saving the day need to be put on hold. Most importantly, the Cleveland sports media needs to stop creating unnecessary distractions in an effort to stir up more views and clicks.
The Browns played flat and acted like they were in quicksand all day down in Jacksonville. Unfortunately, Jacksonville once again snagged Cleveland in a deceptive trap.
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