Once again, the Cleveland Browns held up tough. Once again, they didn’t win.
They took a 20-7 lead into halftime at home against the New York Jets. Quarterback Josh McCown returned and passed for 228 yards in the first half. His counterpart, Ryan Fitzpatrick, went 3-of-14 for 30 yards. For a while, it seemed like the Browns would cruise to their first win of the season.
Then the game changed, apropos of nothing, seemingly. The Browns were unable to re-conjure the chunk plays that sustained four first-half scoring drives. The Jets — with big thanks to wide receiver Quincy Enunwa — began moving downfield quickly on offense. On their first two possessions, Enunwa broke up a sure interception, broke tackles on a weaving 24-yard touchdown reception, and had a 57-yard reception over the middle to help set up another score.
After punting five times in the first half, the Jets scored touchdowns on their first three possessions of the second half, going 78, 84, and 81 yards in 12, eight, and 13 plays, respectively. Fitzpatrick was 13-of-20 for 198 yards and a touchdown after halftime, redeeming his awful first half (even if he didn’t quite convince Jets fans that he is a competent starter).
McCown, meanwhile, managed just 113 yards in the second half, and threw interceptions on consecutive possessions that nuked the Browns’ chances of regaining momentum when the Jets’ offense began to sputter again.
The Browns are now 0-8 with eight games left to avoid the ignominy of a winless season. They have lost four games by one score or less, and they have also led in third quarters of games against the Baltimore Ravens and Washington.
They hadn’t blown a lead as big as their lead over the Jets on Sunday. The Browns do show spirit at times, especially in the face of all of the cruelties they’ve suffered — so many injured quarterbacks, or the occasional A.J. Green one-handed Hail Mary catch. The Browns are terrible, and yet somehow it seems like they could be even worse.
That’s no consolation to Browns fans, though. On Sunday, everything suddenly went horribly wrong right when everything seemed to be going so right. After getting a brief taste of victory, they suffered their most heartbreaking loss yet.