Oozing with confidence after upsetting the Pittsburgh Steelers 20-14 on Nov. 25, middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson declared in his postgame interview that he had no doubt the Browns could win their final five games of the season.
Jackson didn’t back down from his bold statement later in the week, even after the adrenaline from the defense’s eight-takeaway performance wore off.
“There’s no rule that says it can’t be done,” Jackson said. “We worked hard, we’ve been in a lot of tight ballgames where we’ve had the lead and defensively we’ve had a play or two get away from us. I think it’s been well documented that we haven’t finished a ton of games. Last week, it let everyone know if we stay in tune to what we’re doing, stay in tune to every snap, we can win some ballgames.”
But if the Browns (3-8) want to end this season with a run reminiscent of 2009 when former coach Eric Mangini guided them to victories in their final four games, they must snap two suffocating streaks today against the host Oakland Raiders (3-8).
The Browns have lost their past 12 games on the road. The drought actually started with a 24-17 loss to the Raiders at O.co Coliseum on Oct. 16, 2011. Coach Pat Shurmur’s players also have yet to win two games in a row this season. They haven’t captured back-to-back victories since Weeks 2 and 3 of last season, when Shurmur was still new on the job.
The Raiders, meanwhile, are in the midst of a four-game losing streak during which they have been outscored 169-79. The Browns have momentum and are healthy for the most part — rookie free safety Tashaun Gipson is expected to start in place of Usama Young (concussion), and nickel cornerback Dimitri Patterson (ankle) and special-teams ace Ray Ventrone (calf) have been ruled out again. But they realize they can’t afford to underestimate any opponent.
They also know the weather today in the Bay Area could make the game even more unpredictable than usual. Forecasts call for downpours in the morning followed by intermittent showers in the afternoon.
“The forecasts are all over the place,” kicker Phil Dawson said. “The consistent thing, I keep hearing the word torrential. Where I come from, that means a lot. So if it’s that sloppy, you may be limited [in] what you can do.”
The Browns want the rain to go away, along with their inconsistency. Even though injuries forced the Steelers to start third-string quarterback Charlie Batch last week, the Browns believe they proved something by prevailing.
And they certainly don’t want to waste any perceived progress with a loss to the struggling Raiders.
“It’s all good for a week, and then you go right back to feeling like crap,” cornerback Joe Haden said. “You don’t want that to happen. So you want to keep it going. It’s going to make you want it even more. We say after every win, we want this feeling again. Then we lose. We can’t say it anymore. We have to go out there and win again.”
Conquering the road — and the elements — might be the Browns’ greatest obstacle today.
“We’ve just got to get the monkey off our back,” rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden said. “We’ve come down to the wire in a couple of games on the road. It’s all about finishing.
“We’ve won three at home. But we’re still struggling to find one on the road, and I don’t know what it is. But this would be a nice way to start, and it would be nice to take that 5½-, 6-hour plane ride home after a win.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.