EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.: The level of disgust among Browns players might have peaked Sunday evening in the wake of a 24-13 loss to the New York Jets.
Falling nine times in the past 10 games and suffering six consecutive defeats can have devastating effects on a team’s psyche, and the Browns felt them in full force as they packed their bags in the visitor’s locker room at MetLife Stadium.
“We got smacked,” cornerback Joe Haden said. “The team we have and the players we have, I was never expecting this. I wasn’t expecting the record to be like this.”
With a dismal record of 4-11, the best the Browns can do is match last season’s measly win total of five by prevailing in the season finale next weekend on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8). But that doesn’t seem likely, considering the way they’ve been playing down the stretch in Rob Chudzinski’s first season as an NFL head coach.
“It’s unacceptable,” Chudzinski said after the Jets scored 24 of the last 27 points Sunday. “It was a tough game to swallow. Execution was poor in a number of situations whether it was drops, red-zone offense, third-down defense and giving up some big plays on defense in the run game.”
The offense produced just one touchdown despite running 20 red-zone plays, including 13 from the 10-yard line or closer. Wide receivers Josh Gordon and Greg Little each dropped at least one pass in the end zone, and quarterback Jason Campbell was off for most of the game.
“Starting with me, we started to press a little bit when things started to unravel early in the game,” said Campbell, who completed 18-of-40 passes for 178 yards with two interceptions. He posted a passer rating of 37.3 and fell to 1-6 as a starter this season.
Running back Edwin Baker scored the Browns’ lone touchdown via a 5-yard rush, giving the Browns a 10-0 advantage with 6:47 left in the first half. They drove to the Jets’ 2-yard line early in the fourth quarter, but a false-start penalty on tight end Gary Barnidge pushed them back to the 7 and ultimately led to Billy Cundiff’s second field goal, a 21-yard attempt with 9:40 left.
“It’s been the story of the season — not capitalizing on opportunities,” said Little, whose drop in the back of the north end zone in the first quarter preceded Gordon’s drop in the back corner of the south end zone in the second quarter. “Myself included.”
The defense blew the lead in the final 1:18 of the second quarter, allowing the Jets (7-8) to tie the score at halftime. Recovery never seemed to be a realistic option for the Browns, whose defense has allowed 11 scoring drives for 53 points during the last two minutes of the first half in eight of the past nine games.
“The momentum definitely swung and swayed their way when they [scored] 10 points right before halftime,” free safety Tashaun Gipson said. “I’m not making any excuse whatsoever, but the momentum shifted, and I think that that’s when their quarterback began to gain confidence.”
Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith entered the game with a league-low passer rating of 62.9 but completed 20-of-36 passes for 214 yards and two touchdowns to go along with 10 carries for 48 yards, including a 17-yard rushing touchdown. Smith has committed 25 turnovers, including 21 interceptions, this season, but the Browns didn’t tally any takeaways. He finished with a passer rating of 91.7.
“I’m pretty sure anybody coming here playing against him expected to get turnovers against him,” Gipson said. “But no turnovers for him, so I guess he put his foot in my mouth.”
Defensive coordinator Ray Horton advertises his scheme as aggressive and attacking. However, the Browns failed to register a single quarterback hit on Smith, who helped the Jets convert 12-of-18 third downs (67 percent).
“We couldn’t get after him,” inside linebacker and defensive captain D’Qwell Jackson said. “It was just a poor performance on the defensive side of the ball — flat out. There’s no way else to say it. We didn’t come ready to play. They handed it to us.”
The Browns also allowed running backs Chris Ivory (20 carries, 109 yards, 5.5 average) and Bilal Powell (seven carries, 54 yards, 7.7 average) to gash them. The Jets finished with 39 rushing attempts for 208 yards (5.3 average).
“Our front seven played like crap, including myself,” Jackson said. “We didn’t play good enough. You can’t win a game like that.”
Jets wide receiver David Nelson exacted revenge against the Browns, who cut him Aug. 31 after he spent training camp and the preseason in Cleveland, by catching four passes for 33 yards and two touchdowns, the first multi-touchdown game of his four-year career. He beat safety Jordan Poyer in the back of the end zone and grabbed a 6-yard touchdown pass to cap a 13-play, 80-yard drive with 1:18 left in the second quarter.
The Browns then went three-and-out, and aided by Gipson’s 14-yard unnecessary roughness penalty for shoving Smith after he had already run out of bounds, the Jets drove 79 yards to set up Nick Folk’s successful 21-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter.
In the fourth quarter, the defense allowed touchdown drives of 81 and 80 yards. Nelson capped the first one with 14:14 left, when he beat cornerback Buster Skrine for a 5-yard catch in the back corner of the end zone. Smith put the finishing touches on the other by scrambling and running up the middle for a 17-yard touchdown with 3:19 remaining, marking the fourth consecutive game in which the Browns failed to deliver a stop in the clutch.
“It was terrible,” Haden said.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.