Browns doomed by critical mistakes in 27-21 OT loss
By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) — DeShone Kizer sat at his locker and spoke privately for several minutes with new general manager John Dorsey, who did his best to encourage the rookie.
There was plenty to discuss. The Browns had blown another one.
Kizer’s interception in overtime set up Green Bay’s winning touchdown as Cleveland fell to 0-13 for the second straight year with a 27-21 loss on Sunday to the Green Bay Packers, who survived another week without quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Once again, costly mistakes did in the Browns, who led by 14 points in the fourth quarter, but were undone by a dropped pass, poor coverage on a punt return and Kizer’s late pick, which he could have avoided.
“It hurts,” said Kizer, whose three touchdown passes — one to Josh Gordon, who threw on sunglasses to celebrate — were overshadowed by his late gaffe. “Obviously, when you start tasting a little victory throughout the game, you start riding that and you start remembering all of the things that go into winning, and how it all is about getting toward that win. When you don’t get to that at the end of the game, it hurts.”
On the third play of overtime, Kizer scrambled away from pressure and was running to his left when he tried to throw back across his body and had his arm hit by linebacker Clay Matthews. Kizer’s throw sailed up and was picked off by Green Bay safety Josh Jones.
Kizer felt he could get the ball to wide receiver Rashard Higgins, who had spun away from his defender and was wide open for a possible TD — and a win.
“Yeah, I think that you strike up the band there and enjoy our first win of this year,” Kizer said.
But as has been the case too often over the past two years, the play backfired on the Browns, who fell to 1-28 under coach Hue Jackson. They now have three games left to get a win and avoid joining the 2008 Detroit Lions in the infamous 0-16 club.
Kizer wasn’t all to blame. Before his costly interception, rookie tight end David Njoku couldn’t come up with a reception in regulation that would have knocked precious time off the clock. And the Browns gave up a 65-yard punt return to Trevor Davis, setting up the Packers for their tying TD with 17 seconds left.
It’s more of the same for the Browns, who closed out another tumultuous week with their 46th loss in 50 games since the last month of 2014.
On Thursday, owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam fired Sashi Brown, their top football executive, and hired Dorsey, who helped turn around the Kansas City Chiefs and will now try to fix the NFL’s worst team.
Following the game, Dorsey consoled Kizer, clutching the 21-year-old’s hand to offer support. Kizer appreciated the gesture.
“To be reassured that the guys in the locker room with you have your back is always a good thing,” said Kizer, who hooked up with Gordon on an 18-yard scoring strike in the first quarter.
Jackson was spared the ax by the Haslams, who announced the coach will be back in 2018. But the vote of confidence did nothing to ease the sting of another loss.
“I thought that was the best version of us as a football team — offensively, defensively and special teams — up until the fourth quarter, when we need it the most,” Jackson said. “That is what we have to do. We have to finish it. We have to find a way. Our guys are playing hard. They are doing exactly what we ask them to do, but we have to find a way to finish it.”
Disappointment was etched on the faces of several Browns players following the game. This loss hurt more than most.
“Right now, everyone feels sick to their stomach,” said guard Joel Bitonio. “Every loss is tough, but this one leaves you feeling sick. I don’t know how else to explain it.”
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