CLEVELAND: If Jimmy Haslam really wants to make changes to Browns Stadium, he should start with the tunnel that leads to the locker rooms. It looks awfully tacky this time of year.
After the disappointing 24-14 loss to Buffalo on Sunday, Bills fans flooded the first few rows surrounding the tunnel, jumping and cheering frantically. Bills players slapped high fives with them and threw wristbands into the stands as they walked off the field, turning the lakefront into their own personal Orchard Park.
Haslam attended the game Sunday. He couldn’t have been very happy if he stuck around long enough to see the postgame celebration.
“That pissed me off,” Browns receiver Greg Little said. “I take full responsibility for it happening. You can only blame the players on the field. We’ve got to do more to change that.”
There is plenty of blame to go around and plenty of reasons for players and fans alike to be angry. Receivers are still dropping far too many passes — Little had a crucial drop on a third down late in the first half that cost the Browns a chance at points — and this defense couldn’t slow a Bills attack that played three quarters without the NFL’s rushing leader.
Even without C.J. Spiller for much of the day, the Bills’ offense carved up a short-handed defense that regresses every week.
The Browns have been competitive in every game they’ve played, but their failure to execute in critical moments has left them in a worst-case scenario.
Both the Bills and Cincinnati Bengals were considered winnable games, yet the Browns remain winless. Now you’ll need a search warrant to find their first victory. It surely won’t come Thursday night at Baltimore and a road trip to the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants looms in two weeks.
Pat Shurmur, a man quickly running out of explanations (and perhaps ideas) of how to turn this around, was asked yet again how to plug the holes in a season that is already circling the drain.
“You win a game,” he said. “That’s how you turn it around. You win a game.”
If only it were that easy.
All the excitement and feel-good emotions that accompanied Jim Brown’s return to Cleveland were instantly washed away amid showers and thunderstorms of failure.
Defensive breakdowns, turnovers and an inability to create even a crease for Trent Richardson culminated in the worst possible outcome: apathy.
There was little booing and there were few displays of disgust as the fourth quarter ticked away and defeat became inevitable. Browns fans instead trickled out in silence, conditioned to expect such misery while the uninvited guests took over the joint, breaking the vases and burning the couches.
This was only the second home game of the season, yet the stadium wasn’t even three-fourths full for the opening kickoff. The crowd was announced at more than 69,000 and the 9 in that figure came from New York. The Alpha Omegas stormed the freshman dorm and threw the luggage out the windows as Bills players, losers of eight in a row on the road, waved their arms in delight.
“I don’t like it. I don’t like it whatsoever,” said D’Qwell Jackson, who is used to watching opposing teams and their fans rejoice together after so many Pittsburgh Steelers games here. “You know, I’ve been here a long time and it’s embarrassing.”
Before worrying about the feasibility of constructing a roof on this mausoleum, Haslam must find a way to cap the losing. He is expected to get the keys to the hearse Oct. 16, two days after the Browns host the Bengals in what has to be considered their next winnable game.
By then they will probably be either 1-5 or 0-6, and what exactly is the difference in that?
The Browns are now 4-15 under Shurmur, and it’s fair to wonder whether this loss, and the apathy that accompanied it, is the beginning to yet another ending of an abbreviated, unfulfilling chapter in Browns history.
As stadium workers cleaned the trash out of the vacant stands 2½ hours after the game, the sun peeked through the clouds while rain showers drenched the field. It was vintage Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Even when it’s sunny, it’s soggy. It will take more than a roof to chase these storms away.