|Browns staggering to end of another dismal season|
|Tuesday, December 17, 2013 12:00 AM|
By TOM WITHERS
BEREA — Rob Chudzinski and his wife, Sheila, welcomed a baby boy on Monday.
Everyone is doing fine.
Now, if the Browns coach could only get his team to start walking.
With five straight losses and eight in nine games, the Browns (4-10), who just a month ago were considering a possible playoff push, are crawling to the end of yet another miserable season.
For the third week in a row, they blew a fourth-quarter lead and lost on Sunday to the Chicago Bears, who scored 21 points over an 8:42 span in the final period to keep their postseason hopes alive.
The Browns simply can't finish.
"It's very disappointing, very disappointing," said star cornerback Joe Haden, "especially when you have a team that you know that can win. It's frustrating but you always try to stay positive, you always try to look ahead and we still got two more games left.
"We just got to finish the season off strong. We don't want to go into next offseason with this bad a taste in our mouths."
It's a familiar bitter flavor for the Browns, whose losing has reached historic proportions.
They have lost at least 10 games in six straight seasons and have reached double-digit losses in 10 of the past 11 years.
According to STATS, the Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the only teams in NFL history with 10 double-digit loss seasons in an 11-year span.
The 38-31 loss to the Bears followed a season-long script for the Browns. They gave up a late score before halftime to lose momentum, took the lead in the second half and then buckled with the game on the line.
It went the same way against Jacksonville two weeks ago, at New England last week and then again against the Bears, who were able to overcome allowing Cleveland to score two defensive touchdowns.
"It's tough," linebacker Paul Kruger said. "I think the thing that makes it, for me, the hardest is just — we're in it. We're in every game. We're right there and I feel like a lot of times we're actually controlling the game most of the time and just letting it slip away like that is tough. I wish I had an answer for it."
At 4-5 following a win over Baltimore, the Browns emerged from their bye week with so much in front of them.
The schedule appeared favorable and there was a feeling that Cleveland, which hasn't made the AFC playoffs since 2002, had turned some kind of corner.
Instead, the Browns crashed miserably.
Now, with two games left, there isn't much left to play for but pride.
And the Browns may have to do it without Haden, their top defensive player who sustained a painful hip pointer in Sunday's game.
Haden got hurt while trying to stop a run in the third quarter when he was drilled in the hip by the knee of Chicago offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod. Haden doesn't know if he'll be able to play this week against the New York Jets.
"If I can play, I'm going to play," Haden said. "If I can't, I won't. So I would love to definitely finish out the season and play. But I'm not going to go out there if I'm not ready or if I'm going to hurt the team in anyway."
Haden had been having a Pro Bowl-caliber season up until the past few weeks.
But he's given up several big plays in Cleveland's past three losses as the Browns' defense has been unable to come up with big stops when it's mattered most. In the past three games, the Browns have allowed 47 fourth-quarter points.
"We have to do better," Haden added. "We're not playing at our best level. I'm not playing at my best level. I've got to do better, I can do better and we will do better. We've played good at the beginning of the games. It's just always right before half or in fourth quarter or the end."
The losing is new for Kruger, who won a Super Bowl ring with Baltimore last season before signing as a free agent with the Browns.
Kruger told reporters he doesn't regret coming to Cleveland.
"Absolutely not," he added. "It just gives me that much more desire and passion to want to win. I know we're building something here. I know we're making the right moves. We've just got to figure out how to win at the end of the games — bottom line. If we could do that, we'd have a pretty nice record now."