By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
CLEVELAND: Frustration flowed from Browns cornerback Joe Haden as the pain and suffering caused by a three-game losing streak manifested itself in an emotional, expletive-riddled outburst after a 32-28 defeat to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.
He ultimately accepted responsibility for the most recent letdown, but the Browns (4-8) made plenty of crucial mistakes other than his.
“We [bleeping] can’t stand losing,” Haden said, fighting back tears with his voice quivering. “It hurts. I go out there and put my [bleeping] heart out there every time. Every time. You know what I’m saying? And we end up coming up short.”
Wide receiver Josh Gordon appeared to save the day when he scored on a 95-yard touchdown reception to give the Browns a three-point lead with 3:55 remaining in the fourth quarter. But Haden and the defense folded in crunch time by allowing a nine-play, 80-yard drive capped by wide receiver Cecil Shorts’ 20-yard touchdown catch with 40 seconds left. Meanwhile, quarterback Brandon Weeden’s three turnovers that the Jaguars (3-9) turned into 13 points in the final two minutes of the first half came back to haunt the Browns as they absorbed their sixth loss in the past seven games and let Gordon’s 10-catch, 261-yard performance go to waste.
“As a group, collectively, we couldn’t get it done,” said Gordon, who broke the franchise record for receiving yards in a game that he previously set last week with 237 in a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. “So that’s what matters most to me.”
Weeden was diagnosed with a concussion after reporting symptoms after the game, a team spokesman said. Starting in place of Jason Campbell, who was out with a concussion suffered last week, it’s not known when Weeden suffered the injury because he didn’t miss a snap. As part of the NFL’s concussion protocol, Weeden was not permitted to speak with reporters.
Regardless, the Browns squandered their best opportunity to match last season’s win total — a lowly five victories. Down the stretch, they’ll be underdogs on the road against the New England Patriots, at home against the Chicago Bears and as visitors against the New York Jets and Steelers. In the past three games, the Browns have dissolved from a team with playoff hopes to one seemingly headed toward a top-five pick in May’s draft.
In the midst of a Pro Bowl-caliber season, Haden gave up the decisive touchdown when Shorts, a Cleveland native and University of Mount Union product who grew up rooting for the Browns, beat him on a double move to the back corner of the end zone to grab quarterback Chad Henne’s 20-yard scoring strike. The Browns got the ball back, but Weeden’s Hail Mary pass was batted down in the end zone by Jaguars safety Chris Prosinski as time expired.
“It was my fault on the touchdown,” said Haden, who had an interception in the second quarter on which the offense failed to capitalize. “He ran a good route, a good play, good offense. Don’t take anything from our D. We’re out there every time grinding, fighting. This …hurts. Every time we start losing, we’re tired of it, and there’s nothing we can say.”
The blame shouldn’t be placed upon Haden alone.
“To put it on one man, that would be a crime,” inside linebacker and defensive captain D’Qwell Jackson said. “That play was on our entire defense. I’ve got the utmost respect for Joe. He’s made a ton of plays for us. That’s a defensive letdown.”
The offense had its fair share of miscues, too.
En route to falling to 0-5 as a starter this season, Weeden’s three turnovers allowed the Jaguars to seize a 20-14 halftime lead. Three plays after safety Johnathan Cyprien returned Weeden’s first interception 27 yards to the Browns’ 17, running back Maurice-Jones Drew took a pitch to the right and threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Marcedes Lewis, tying the score with 1:19 left in the second quarter.
Instead of running out the clock and heading into halftime tied 14-14, coach Rob Chudzinski refused to stray from his aggressive philosophy, keeping the pedal to the metal in hopes of moving into field-goal range. The decision backfired when the Jaguars turned another interception from Weeden and a strip-sack on him into Josh Scobee field goals of 44 and 36 yards.
“It was a huge momentum swing going into the half,” Chudzinski said. “Those critical mistakes, turnovers, are killing us. We’re just not able to overcome.”
Weeden started the second half with a 10-play, 80-yard drive capped by his 4-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Greg Little that gave the Browns a 21-20 lead with 9:44 left in the third quarter. Gordon took a shot to the chin from safety Winston Guy during the drive and was evaluated for a concussion. He was medically cleared to return late in the third quarter and went on to become the first player in NFL history to tally 200-plus receiving yards in back-to-back games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Four series after Browns kicker Billy Cundiff missed a 53-yard field goal wide right late in the third quarter, a high shotgun snap from center Alex Mack went over the head of Weeden, who alertly kicked the ball out of the back of the end zone to give the Jaguars a safety and a 22-21 lead with 7:42 left in the fourth quarter instead of allowing them to recover the loose ball for a touchdown. But the Browns took a 28-25 lead when Gordon caught a pass from Weeden at the Browns’ 23 and outraced two defenders to the end zone for a 95-yard touchdown with 3:55 remaining.
Shorts and the Jaguars then got the last laugh, leaving Haden in a foul mood with which a depressed fan base can certainly relate.
Chudzinski wasn’t happy, either.
“We won’t stand for losing,” Chudzinski said. “We’re going to get this fixed. It’s unacceptable. It’s not about the effort of the group today. It’s about the mistakes.”