AFC North: Cleveland Browns
BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns continue to be associated with records they would rather forget.
The only winless team in the NFL has six players who have attempted passes this season.
According to Elias, the Browns are only the third team since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 to have that many players throw at least five passes in a season. The 1984 and 1987 Bears are the only other teams to do it.
Of course, the Browns have nine games left to add to their total and run away with this "crown."
This week's candidate would be Joe Callahan, who was claimed on waivers on Monday from New Orleans. He is the sixth quarterback on the roster this season.
Determining whether that is a record is difficult. Thus, ESPN Stats and Information combined with Elias to come up with the five-pass minimum designation.
In 1984, the Bears had five quarterbacks throw 47 or more passes: Jim McMahon, Rusty Lisch, Steve Fuller, Bob Avellini and Greg Landry. Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton threw eight passes on halfback options. Payton had a better passer rating than Avellini and Lisch.
Buoyed by its well-known defense, that Bears team still made the playoffs with a 10-6 record -- and went to the NFC Championship Game, losing to the San Francisco 49ers.
Fuller started both playoff games.
In 1987, the Bears had six quarterbacks throw at least 11 passes: McMahon, Mike Tomczak, Mike Hohensee, Sean Payton (the current Saints coach), Steve Bradley and Jim Harbaugh. Payton threw just one pass.
That Bears team also made the playoffs, going 11-5 and losing in the divisional round to Washington. McMahon played quarterback in the playoff game.
Technically, the Browns have not been eliminated from the playoffs. So there is hope they could be like those Bears teams. Right?
But this week's starter is a mystery.
Kessler is in the NFL concussion protocol and McCown still is trying to come back from a broken left collarbone. It's possible Hogan will be the fourth different starter this season. Hogan played Sunday in Cincinnati and did OK given the circumstances, completing 12 of 24 passes for 100 yards and running for 104 more.
It marked the second time in a non-strike season a team has had six players throw a pass in the first seven games. The last: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1976, when they went 0-14.
BEREA, Ohio -- The way the Cleveland Browns season is going, any quarterback who has changed planes in or near Cleveland in the past year is eligible for the roster.
Monday, the team claimed quarterback Joe Callahan on waivers. Callahan was with the Saints for 10 days after Green Bay had waived him.
He made the Packers' 53-man roster after a strong preseason. Callahan played at Wesley, a Division III school.
This move would indicate that Josh McCown is not ready to play after suffering a broken left collarbone on Sept. 18, and that the team is concerned Cody Kessler will not be cleared from a concussion in time to play on Sunday.
Which of course raises the very real possibility that the Browns could face the Jets with Kevin Hogan and Callahan as their quarterbacks. Combined they have been on the team's 53-man roster for 14 days.
Who will be with the first team when the team practices again on Wednesday?
"We will find out," coach Hue Jackson said. "Today is Monday. Tuesday is tomorrow. Wednesday is a day-and-a-half away so we will figure that out as we go."
The way this season is going there's a high likelihood that Callahan will take a snap at some point. The Browns have had five quarterbacks on the roster, and every one has taken a snap (along with WR Terrelle Pryor).
Hogan was on the Browns practice squad until Oct. 11. He played in Sunday's loss in Cincinnati after Kessler left with the concussion. He threw for 100 yards and ran for 104 — including a 28-yard touchdown.
"He battled as hard as he could for a guy that, again, doesn't get a ton of reps," coach Hue Jackson said Sunday.
Such is the state of the Browns that Jackson was not even asked about Hogan on Monday. There are that many issues with a winless team that has used six quarterbacks in seven games.
Browns fans may remember Callahan from the preseason. He started the first game in Green Bay and played very well, competing 16-of-23 for 124 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. His rating against the Browns starting defense: 97.0.
Callahan set records in college, throwing for 5,068 yards and 55 touchdowns as a senior. Green Bay gave him a chance as an undrafted free agent, and he earned the Packers roster spot by throwing for 499 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in the preseason.
The Browns also raised a red flag about the condition of center Cam Erving by claiming center Gabe Ikard on waivers from Buffalo
Erving missed three games with a bruised lung then missed the second half Sunday with an undisclosed illness that Jackson did not specify.
"We just have to get some more clarity on exactly what that is and where he is," Jackson said. "He is definitely one of the ones I don’t have a lot of the answers that way yet."
The move with Johnson was a bit of a surprise. He had played regularly and had started one game. He even got his first career carry in Washington, which led to a game-changing fumble.
"We are just going to keep working and be prepared for many different scenarios as we go through it and make sure that we can field a good offensive football team on Sunday," Jackson said. "That is what we will do.”
Full speed ahead, as the trek to end a winless season continues.
"We get it," Jackson said. "We have dug this hole for ourselves. We have nobody to blame but us, starting with me. We know we have some things to fix. At the same time, being disappointed is different than being about to jump over the fence.
"I say it all the time, but I’m not discouraged. I’m more determined than ever and going to stay that way to get this football team where it needs to be."
CINCINNATI -- The season of quarterback calamity marches on.
The Cleveland Browns became the first team in a non-strike season to have six players throw a pass in the first seven games of the season since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1976. That was Year 1 of the Bucs' existence, and they finished 0-14. The Browns fell to 0-7 -- only one more loss than the number of quarterbacks used -- in a 31-17 loss to Cincinnati on Sunday.
The sixth quarterback for the Browns was rookie Kevin Hogan, who was promoted from the practice squad on Oct. 11.
The Browns initially planned to use Hogan just in read-option packages against Cincinnati, but when Cody Kessler left with a concussion with 7:27 left in the first half, Hogan took over. He followed Robert Griffin III, Josh McCown, Kessler, Terrelle Pryor and Charlie Whitehurst at the position.
Hogan played valiantly, finishing with 104 yards rushing and 100 passing. But he also had two interceptions and a rating of 26.4.
He played far more valiantly than the Browns' defense, which gave up three touchdowns of 40 yards or more.
The Browns gave up 559 yards on defense, and the trifecta of embarrassment: a 100-yard rushing day to Hill, a 100-yard receiving day to Green and a 300-yard passing day to Andy Dalton.
With Joe Haden out for a second consecutive game with a strained groin, Green had his way against the Browns' secondary, catching all eight passes thrown his way. Hill had an even better time, rampaging for 168 yards on nine carries -- an average of 18.7 yards per carry.
Hogan, who had been on the practice squad for the first five games of the season, was the Browns' leading rusher on Sunday. He even channeled his inner Steve Young with a 28-yard touchdown run, the longest by a quarterback in Browns history, but it was evident at a certain point that there were only so many plays he could run.
Even with Kessler under center, the Browns started this game outmanned.
His concussion only tilted the game further in favor of Cincinnati.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, only 8.8 percent of Kessler's passes have been off-target this season. That is the lowest percentage of off-target throws among qualified quarterbacks. Cincinnati's Andy Dalton is second, 12.4 percent.
Kessler had the hallmark of being an accurate passer coming out of USC. The Browns made him a surprise third-round pick in part because of the fact that he completed 67.4 percent for the Trojans. With the Browns, he's completing 65.6 percent.
Accuracy also avoids turnovers. Kessler has just one interception in 122 throws, a ratio of 0.8 percent. In college, he had 19 interceptions in 851 attempts. Kessler and Seattle's Russell Wilson are the only two qualifying quarterbacks to have only one interception with at least 122 throws.
One factor that is helping Kessler is the Browns' almost complete reliance on the short passing game with him at quarterback. Which isn't surprising given Kessler also arrived with the reputation of not having the strongest arm.
The Stats folks at ESPN report that Kessler's average pass distance thrown is 6.98 yards. That's the sixth-lowest in the league. Only Detroit's Matthew Stafford, Kansas City's Alex Smith, Minnesota's Sam Bradford, Denver's Trevor Siemian and Wilson are lower.
Only 17 of Kessler's 122 throws have been at least 15 yards downfield (13.9 percent). That's the second-lowest percentage in the league, behind Siemian. By comparison, Dalton has thrown 40 of 218 passes 15 yards or more (18.3).
Kessler is 7-for-17 on those throws, with no touchdowns and one interception. On throws longer than 15 yards, Kessler has completed 41.2 percent. On throws shorter, he's completed 69.5 percent.
The easy conclusion would be to disparage what Kessler has done based on those numbers. But the list of guys with short throws includes some pretty good quarterbacks. Bradford is fifth in the league in Total QBR, Stafford seventh. Bradford, Stafford and Wilson are ranked second, third and 12th, respectively, in quarterback rating.
Most important, all of their teams are .500 or above. Combined, the records of the those teams is 19-8. Teams clearly can win with short-passing games, depending on the rest of the team's talent.
A high passer rating for short-passing quarterbacks matches the conventional wisdom. Short and accurate passers are rewarded in passer rating. Sometimes the more careful a quarterback plays, the better his rating.
Eventually the Browns will have to have Kessler throw the ball downfield more. Seventeen passes of more than 15 yards averages out to about four per start, or 1.3 per quarter (to factor in the fact he played just one quarter against New England). Defenses will squeeze the field on him now that they've seen film of him.
But Kessler also is learning on the fly. He was thrust into the starting lineup far earlier than the Browns expected or hoped. His skill is accuracy, and coach Hue Jackson designed game plans to take advantage of that skill. One of Jackson's first statements when he learned that Kesser would start was that he had to design a game plan to help him.
Kessler and the Browns are a short-passing team right now.
Criticizing him for what he does well doesn't seem fair. (Instead, he should be credited for taking advantage of what he does well.
His long-term success, though, may depend on how well he does in the intermediate and long-passing game as he grows and as the offense grows with him.
BEREA, Ohio -- The news has improved on the "when is the first win?" debate for the Cleveland Browns.
They now have a predicted win percentage better than 40 percent in two games and better than a one-in-three chance in four games, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
That's an improvement from a week ago, when in no games were they given a chance to win higher than 36.4 percent.
There's a party going on right here ...
A close loss at the Tennessee Titans last weekend improved the Browns' predicted win percentages in almost every future contest.
The negative: The Browns are still not favored to win in any game.
But the Browns' close loss and the New York Jets' bad loss to the Arizona Cardinals improved the Browns' chances from 36.3 percent to 43.8 percent against the Jets. That Oct. 30 game represents the Browns' best chance to win the rest of the season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Cleveland's second-best opportunity: at home against the Bengals Dec. 11 with a 41.3 predicted win percentage.
After the Titans game, the Browns' percentages of winning improved in eight of the 10 remaining games.
The only two for which the odds decreased: at home Nov. 6 against the Dallas Cowboys (27 percent) and at the Buffalo Bills Dec. 18 (12.8). That Bills game currently represents the Browns' lowest chance to win, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
However, even the increases are relative.
The Browns' chances of winning Sunday in Cincinnati, for example, went from a meager 14.9 percent to a still-meager 18.3 percent. Cincinnati is favored by 9.5 points, per the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.
The top five games ESPN analysis projects the Browns can win: home games against the Jets, Bengals, Chargers, Giants and Cowboys.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Six games, six losses.
The Cleveland Browns remain winless -- and have lost their first six games for the first time since the expansion season of 1999. As usually happens, this loss consisted of several pieces that, put together, added up to not good enough.
This latest defeat, 28-26 to the Tennessee Titans, also featured an odd/interesting decision by coach Hue Jackson. After the Browns had cut a 28-13 deficit to 28-19 with 2:07 left, Jackson chose to go for two points.
When the Browns did not convert, they needed two possessions to win instead of one to tie. That decision loomed larger when the Browns recovered an onside kick, and it loomed giant when they turned that recovery into a touchdown with 27 seconds left.
Cody Parkey kicked the extra point to make the deficit two, but had Jackson asked Parkey to kick the extra point after the first touchdown, they could have gone for two to tie at the end.
"I went for two because I knew at some point I was going to have to go for it," Jackson said.
"The way our offense was rolling, we had a really good rhythm on that drive," quarterback Cody Kessler said.
"We should have got it," running back Duke Johnson said. "We should have found a way to go get it."
It was that kind of game for the Browns, who in the big picture simply made too many mistakes to win. Tennessee did not exactly dominate, but on key plays the Titans were simply better, and on others the Browns hurt their cause.
Start with the Browns' converting just one of their first 11 third downs. On the 11th, Ricardo Louis dropped a sure first down on third-and-15. Instead of continuing a drive down eight points, the Browns punted and Marcus Mariota ended the ensuing drive with his third touchdown pass.
Then there were coverage problems. Mariota found Kendall Wright for a deep touchdown in the second quarter and Rishard Matthews on a deep throw that set up another score. On both plays, rookie Derrick Kindred was late in coverage.
Kessler had a strong first half, throwing for 185 yards and a touchdown. The second started differently, as Kessler and the offense gained 1, 4 and 3 yards on their first three possessions before putting together a late TD drive down 15.
Kessler threw a perfect touchdown to Terrelle Pryor to end the first half, but the Browns went three-and-out on a combined six possessions before and after the end-of-half TD drive. That's seven possessions, one touchdown and six three-and-outs.
The Browns play hard and with effort. They try. They have good plans. They did not give up after falling behind by 15 in the fourth quarter; instead, they played furiously in an attempt for a miraculous win.
"I already talked to a couple guys on the team and I feel like we're doing all the right things," left tackle Joe Thomas said. "The way we're preparing, the way we're practicing, the way we're playing in games with a lot of energy and a lot of fight. But we're just not consistent enough making the plays."
But 18 rookies were on the roster on Sunday, and the team said that's the first time that happened since 2010 in Tampa Bay.
The Browns just don't have the talent they need up and down the roster, and the talent they have has to be near-perfect to win.
BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns have a better chance of winning a coin toss than they do a game the rest of this season.
That's the bottom line when examining the Browns' chances on a game-by-game basis, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
A coin toss is a 50-50 proposition.
But the highest chance the 0-5 Browns have to win one of their final 11 games is 36.4 percent, well below the Coin Toss Line. Which of course means Stats & Info does not predict the Browns to win a game this season.
Consider Sunday. The Browns visit the Tennessee Titans. They have a two-game winning streak over the Titans (in 2015, with Johnny Manziel at quarterback, and 2014, when Brian Hoyer led the greatest comeback in team history).
But the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has the Browns as a seven-point underdog and ESPN analytics say the Browns have an 18.3 percent chance to win. That's less than one in five.
The numbers-crunchers say the Browns have an 18.3 percent chance to beat a 2-3 team.
Which brings up the question: What game gives the winless Browns their best chance at a first victory this season?
Stats & Info says it's at home on Christmas Eve against San Diego.
The Browns have less than a 20 percent chance in six of their final 11 games -- road games at Tennessee, Baltimore, Buffalo and Pittsburgh and home against Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. The Buffalo number -- a 14.3 percent chance -- is the most surprising.
The Browns have less than a 1-in-3 chance to beat Dallas at home in Week 9, but a better than 1-in-3 shot to beat the Jets, Giants, Bengals and Chargers, all at home. All are less than a 40 percent chance, though.
Breaking it down just by reason and logic means six games fall in the "the other team has to lay an egg to win" category. That would be against Pittsburgh, twice; at Cincinnati; against Dallas; and at Baltimore.
Pittsburgh and Dallas are at different levels than the Browns. Cincinnati might not be at Pittsburgh's level, but the Bengals are better than the Browns, though often it seems the Browns play the Bengals well when the game is in Cleveland. And at Baltimore on a Thursday night in Week 10 will be more than difficult.
Two games are in the "hopefully it's a tossup" category: Home against the Giants and at Buffalo.
Neither of these teams is a powerhouse, so in theory the Browns could play well and beat them. However, both the Giants and Bills have had their moments. Of these two, the Giants at this point of the season are probably the most vulnerable.
Which leaves two games, both at home: The Jets on Oct. 30, and the Chargers on Dec. 24.
Stats & Info gives the Browns a 36.3 percent chance against the 1-4 Jets, one-tenth of a percent lower than the Chargers. New York doesn't pass well and doesn't cover the pass well. San Diego has found all kinds of ways to lose, and the idea of a warm-weather team flying cross-country to play a cold-weather team on Christmas Eve can't be too appealing.
The gruesome reality: If the Browns don't get it done in Tennessee or against the Jets, a 14-game losing streak to start the season leading into the Chargers game is on the table.
The state of the Cleveland Browns' quarterback position can be summed up with this reality: They will go to Tennessee with a 37-year-old and two rookies.
The moves indicate two things:
- Whitehurst's left knee injury had to be at least a several-week issue.
- The team feels relatively confident about the chances for Cody Kessler and/or Josh McCown to play on Sunday against the Titans.
Kessler is dealing with bruised ribs that limited him to just less than one quarter against New England.
McCown is going to try to come back from a fractured collarbone incurred Sept. 18, a move that surprised many in and out of the league, including ESPN's Stephania Bell (who added that all injuries are different).
Odds and logic would seem to indicate that the Browns hope Kessler will be healthy enough to start.
Hogan would be the healthiest of all the team's quarterbacks. He was drafted in the fifth round by Kansas City, released at the end of preseason and signed by the Browns to the practice squad.
He and Kessler are the two rookies.
McCown is the 37-year-old veteran.
Does this happen to other teams?
Whitehurst signed Sept. 20 when McCown was hurt, threw for 182 yards in the loss to New England after Kessler bruised his ribs.
Late in the loss, though, Whitehurst appeared to hyperextend his left knee, and Monday he was walking gingerly.
The knee issue must have been a several-week problem. The injury settlement created a roster spot to bring Hogan up to the active roster. Had Whitehurst stayed healthy and started this Sunday and played the same way, he might have worked his way into the middle of the Browns' post-1999 quarterback rankings. Instead, he's one of many footnotes in this team's post-expansion existence.
Already this season, three quarterbacks have started games: Robert Griffin III, McCown and Kessler.
While the New England Patriots dominated en route to a 33-13 victory, the Cleveland Browns found themselves staring at another quarterback calamity, as rookie Cody Kessler left the game late in the first quarter with rib and shoulder injuries and later Charlie Whitehurst limped off with 3:57 left after getting hit in the left knee.
The Browns are winless in five games and heading to Tennessee with, probably, their sixth starting quarterback in the past eight games: Whitehurst if he's healthy (he returned with 31 seconds left to kneel down) or Terrelle Pryor. Kessler said he'd try to return but seemed to be in pain as he stood to speak to the media. His status seems very iffy.
The game itself had the feel of being competitive for perhaps 10 minutes. Then again, the way Tom Brady started, the word "competitive" is relative. New England was ornery coming off a loss, and Brady was more ornery coming off a four-game suspension. The Patriots outmanned the Browns, and Brady threw for 406 yards and three touchdowns.
The Browns lost Kessler and went to Whitehurst, who provided some second-half spark and threw some nice passes in tough circumstances. He finished 14-of-24 for 182 yards, with a touchdown to rookie tight Connor Hamlett and one interception.
Brady, meanwhile, acted as if he hadn't missed a down, and the Browns' defense offered only sporadic resistance. Had the Patriots scored from the 1-yard line in the first half and had they made a field goal to end the half, this score would have been more lopsided.
A season that looked like it would be a long one in Cleveland has turned into a five-game quagmire. Kessler said he would try to come back, but wouldn't know until the week progressed. Whitehurst said the same. No matter who starts, a winless team will face the Titans with its fourth starting quarterback in six games this season.
Not much was expected of the Browns in this first season of what owner Jimmy Haslam called a multi-year rebuild. But a game like Sunday's shows the Grand Canyon-esque gap between a Browns team at the bottom and a New England team among the best.
The Patriots play with precision and effort. The Browns ... well, they've lost the first five games of this season on top of losing 13 of 16 in 2015 on top of losing the final five games of the 2014 season.
That makes them 3-23 in their past 26 games.
CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Browns' Twitter feed was just keeping fans up to date during Sunday's game against New England.
In doing so, it summed up the status of the team's quarterback position, which continued to be a smoldering mess.
Cody Kessler started and led the Browns to a touchdown on his second drive. But on his third, he dropped back from his 10 and was smothered by linebacker Dont'a Hightower. Kessler tried to throw but lost the ball, and it eventually rolled out of the side of the end zone for a safety.
Kessler landed on his right shoulder and was slow to get up. He soon went to the locker room and did not return.
QB Cody Kessler is running back to the bench.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) October 9, 2016
Terrelle Pryor is in at QB.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) October 9, 2016
Charlie Whitehurst is in at QB.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) October 9, 2016
The tweets came within three minutes of each other.
BEREA, Ohio -- Bill Belichick left the Cleveland Browns in 1995, a victim of Art Modell's decision to move the team.
Belichick was never popular in Cleveland, but he has always maintained that he was on the way to building something good.
The Browns were 11-5 and a playoff team under Belichick in 1994. His defense led the NFL in points allowed, and the Browns beat the Patriots in the divisional round that season.
The 1995 team started 3-1 but was completely undone by Modell's decision to move. Belichick was fired after that season, making him the last Browns coach before the expansion era.
It left the city of Cleveland without an NFL team for three years and led to what has become a nightmare stretch for Browns fans.
Since 1999, when the team returned, the Browns have gone 87-189 (that's right, 102 more losses than wins). According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Browns' 185 losses from 1999 through 2015 marked the worst 17-season total since the NFL expanded to the 16-game schedule in 1978.
Belichick joined the Patriots in 2000, Year 2 of the Browns' expansion run. His first team was 5-11, his second team discovered Tom Brady, and he has not looked back, going 190-70 in his Pats tenure.
Give the Browns an extra 100 wins, and they'd still trail Belichick's total in New England by three.
The side by side comparison of the two teams since 2000 may be obvious, but it's no less remarkable:
- Belichick has had one losing record in 16 full seasons in New England. The Browns have had 14 going back to 2000.
- Belichick has had 10 wins or more in 14 seasons. The Browns have had 10 losses or more in 12.
- Belichick has won 12 games or more in the past six seasons. The Browns have lost 11 games or more in seven of the past eight.
- Because of injuries and Brady's suspension, Belichick has used two quarterbacks this season. The Browns have started three.
- Prior to this season, Belichick has had three starting quarterbacks: Brady, Matt Cassel (when Brady was hurt) and Drew Bledsoe. The Browns have used three starters in five of the past six seasons. Entering this season, they had used 24 in total since 2000.
- New England has used five starting quarterbacks since 2000. At one point between the end of last season and the start of this, the Browns used five starting quarterbacks in five games.
- The Browns have had nine different coaches during Belichick's tenure with the Patriots.
- Cleveland has won 84 games since Belichick took over the Pats. New England won 84 games in Belichick's first eight seasons. In his past seven, Belichick has won 85.
- Belichick has been to the playoffs 13 times with New England, and the last seven years in a row. The Pats have won 33 playoff games since he took over. In that same span, the Browns went to the playoffs once, losing their only postseason game.
- Belichick has had double-digit wins 14 times since 2000. The Browns have done it once in that span -- and they did not make the playoffs in that year.
It's grossly oversimplifying things to say the Browns would have matched the Patriots' success had Belichick stayed with the team and the move not happened. It's the old "if pigs had wings" argument. Even Belichick admits he has used what he learned in Cleveland to make the Patriots the team they are today.
But while Belichick and Brady keep winning, the Browns keep trying to find the right elixir with different coaches, players, front-office types and owners.( The latest hope -- and there is reason to believe in it -- is that a young team will grow under the culture developed by Hue Jackson. Despite an 0-4 start, there are signs it may work.
Belichick did not have Brady for four games this season. He started 3-1.
While the Browns hope, Belichick keeps on being Belichick.
BEREA, Ohio -- Joe Thomas laughed out loud when the notion was proposed that he might do a postgame jersey swap with QB Tom Brady this weekend after the New England Patriots and Cleveland Browns play.
"I doubt he'd want to swap a jersey with me," Thomas said Wednesday. "Mine might go in the trash after he got it."
Maybe, maybe not.
Thomas has been quite vocal in his support of Brady and criticism of Roger Goodell for the four-game suspension the NFL commissioner invoked on Brady for the Deflategate saga.
Thomas at one point said that Goodell was going on "witch hunts" after players.
The Browns' left tackle said this not because of any lasting friendship with Brady, but because of principle.
"I don't actually know him," Thomas said. "He's never gone to the Pro Bowl. He always got injured during the Pro Bowl week somehow, so I don't personally know him.
"I just know the issues, and I felt like he was kind of unfairly targeted."
It would be tough to think that Brady did not appreciate the support. No doubt the two will exchange some greetings after the game, even if they don't exchange jerseys.
Thomas had this to say of the Browns facing Brady in his return: "We don't have any film on him so far this year."
Then he continued.
"Who knows what he's going to do?" Thomas said. "He might come out and be an option quarterback. I know Bill Belichick and the Patriots; they try to be unpredictable."
He said it all without flinching.
Winnable is relative, of course, for an 0-4 team.
But this season's Browns continue to push the rock up the hill, only to see it roll back and smack them in the face. In typical Browns fashion, though, there were some of those head-scratching moments that just won't seem to go away.
" Duke Johnson Jr.'s fourth-quarter fumble that officials gave to Washington even though Johnson was standing on the field with the ball raised in the air, in his hand. The team thought the ball bounced right back to Johnson; the officials ruled otherwise.
After the previous play, officials sent cornerback Jamar Taylor to the sidelines because he was having trouble breathing after getting hit in the side. In the ensuing confusion over getting the right people on the field and lined up, the defense was not positioned to cover Thompson.
What was wrong with Taylor?
"Nothing major," he said. "They just told me I had to get off the field."
Getting him off the field helped the Redskins score. Coach Hue Jackson said the officials usually will let him know when something like that happens, but he didn't get the word on this play, which he said was "nobody's fault but mine."
"I didn't know," he said, "so obviously I have to make sure that I'm available to make sure they can get to me and get me that information."
" Austin Reiter's strong game in blocking for the run. Reiter was signed off the Washington practice squad when Cam Erving bruised his lung Sept. 18. Reiter started his first game after Alvin Bailey was arrested for OVI a week ago (Jackson said Bailey's benching was disciplinary). And Reiter played well.
But in the fourth quarter he got caught up pass blocking and wound up with a serious knee injury. He left with crutches, his knee wrapped.
"It doesn't look good at this point," Jackson said.
Reiter was the Browns' third center, and he must have been doing something right because Isaiah Crowell was running through some gaping holes in the middle of the line. Crowell averaged 7.5 yards on his 15 carries.
" The Browns are starting their third quarterback, and though Cody Kessler threw for 228 yards and a touchdown he also had a costly fourth-quarter interception. The Browns were using their third center. They had an inactive list that included nothing but starters. And they have a roster of young players and rookies.
But against Baltimore, Miami and Washington they had chances to win. Good chances.
Instead they suffered tough defeats.
"The wins are right around the corner," Jackson said.
Young teams make mistakes, though, like losing the ball three times in the final 16 minutes. They also struggle to "finish," a buzzword with this team. Fight takes a team only so far.
Brady is one of the best. Coming off a suspension he'll be motivated. Naturally the first team he faces is the Browns.
New England rarely loses two games in a row. In fact, the Patriots have lost two games a row only six times in the past 13 seasons.
They lost Sunday, by a shutout.
It's simply tough to script these tales that the Browns keep living.
LANDOVER, Md. -- The Cleveland Browns were in position to steal a win, their first of the season.
But at a key point of the game, one running back was hurt, the other was being checked for a concussion. Hue Jackson turned to a fullback at running back, and the result short-circuited a promising comeback and resulted in a 31-20 loss to the Washington Redskins.
The Browns had turned a around a 14-0 first-quarter deficit to Washington and led 20-17 late in the third quarter. Cleveland was controlling the game and had driven from its 23-yard line to the Washington 16 with 1:14 left.
Isaiah Crowell had just broken three tackles on a 14-yard catch and run on third-and-8. Backup Duke Johnson was being checked for a concussion. So coach Hue Jackson lined up fullback Malcolm Johnson at tailback and tried to power-run off the right tackle.
Johnson gained 2 yards. Then he fumbled, and Washington recovered.
It was the first carry of Johnson's career, which comprises last season and these four games.
"That has nothing to do with it," Jackson said. "Malcolm practices at that position carrying the ball. Malcolm's a pro football player that gets paid on our football team and he can carry the ball. He's got to do a better job."
Washington turned that turnover into a 91-yard drive and the go-ahead touchdown. The Browns added two more turnovers on a Duke Johnson fumble -- the Browns disputed that Washington recovered -- and a Josh Norman interception. When Washington scored another touchdown with just over four minutes left, the Browns were down 11 points, which accounted for the final score.
At points of the game, it seemed like the Browns deserved better. It also seemed like they were on the verge of taking control of the game. But Jackson preached all week about the importance of "finishing" a game. The Browns did not finish.
Their "reward": Facing Tom Brady next Sunday in his first game back from his Deflategate suspension.
"I think the wins are right around the corner," Jackson said. "I really do. We've been in the last three ballgames."