Browns Fall To 3-7 And Out Of It Before Deshaun Watson Even Takes The Field

Here's a familiar sight at a Browns game -- an opposing runner walking into the end zone without being touched. (

Here's a familiar sight at a Browns game -- an opposing runner walking into the end zone without being touched. (

Browns fall to 3-7 and out of it before Deshaun Watson even takes the field

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Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for and 850 ESPN Cleveland. He has covered the Browns since 1984.


Deshaun Watson is good, but can he tackle ball-carriers and keep receivers from being embarrassingly uncovered?

Can he execute an onside kick and kick a field goal over the heads of the other team?

Can he exhort his team from doing everything possible to undermine the few players playing hard and well?

If the Browns think Watson is going to turn this season around on his own when he finally gets on the field on Dec. 4, they are in for a bigger surprise than already suffered by everybody.

No matter what the Browns are paying Watson, he can’t undo the destructive habits his teammates have fallen into.

They showed again in a 31-23 loss to the Buffalo Bills that their 3-7 record is a spot-on caricature of what they have become. Their sixth loss in seven games dropped them to 14th in the 16-team AFC.

The move of this game from snow-ravaged Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, NY, to Ford Field was supposed to give the Bills a decided advantage because they are built for speed on offense and could accentuate it indoors.

But the truth is, the Browns came out and handed it to the Bills early. The Bills Mafia, which outnumbered Browns fans about 2-to-1 in the audience of 52,146, was stunned at the sight of rattled quarterback Josh Allen tossing incompletions as if he were still playing for Wyoming in the old WAC.

The Bills didn’t gain a first down until eight minutes were left in the second quarter. They didn’t even throw a pass to superstar receiver Stefon Diggs until 18 seconds were left in the first half.

But that 5-yard pass from Allen was such a harbinger. Nobody covered Diggs on a short red-zone route to the back of the end zone, and the touchdown gave the Bills a 13-10 halftime lead that demoralized the Browns. 

The Bills kicked four field goals and scored one touchdown on their first five possessions of the second half to produce the laugher expected from them.

The Browns wasted a hot hand by Jacoby Brissett. If you substitute the name Watson next to Brissett’s game numbers – 28 of 41 for 324 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 116.3 – you would say, “That’s what he’s being paid to do.”

Yet the Browns were never in this game in the second half. They should have had a big lead going into the second half, but fell victim once again to their own destructive habits.

They blew a touchdown chance on their second possession when tight end Harrison Bryant dropped a Brissett pass at the goal line and then tight end Pharaoh Brown dropped one in the end zone on the very next play.

On their third possession, Brissett mishandled the snap from substitute center Hjalte Froholdt – who was the fourth center at the start the season but had to replace injured starter Ethan Pocic in the first quarter – and the Bills turned into a field goal.

Then in the third quarter, down by 16-10, another scoring march by the Browns was derailed when Brissett was stopped not once but twice on quarterback sneaks at the Bills’ 27. He had been 7 for 7 on third down sneaks and 6 of 7 on fourth down this year.

“To not get two of them was tough,” said Kevin Stefanski.

“We knew that on third-and-1, fourth-and-1, they always do quarterback sneak,” said Bills defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, who made the first stop. “They're averaging two yards every time they did it. You know it's coming. You just got to get off the ball and make a play.”

“You stop a team on fourth-and-inches, you take their pride away,” said Bills end Boogie Basham, who shared the stop on fourth down. “You can just feel it. You can’t have no better feeling than that.”

That was the ballgame.

Brissett managed two quick scoring drives late in the game after the Browns fell behind, 28-10 and 31-16.

The Bills kicked four field goals in the second half – six overall – mainly because Allen was unsharp, despite improving on a 9-of-16 first half.

The Browns’ beleaguered defense surrendered 115 rushing yards in the second half and 171 overall. Buffalo backs Devin Singletary and James Cook each totaled 86 yards on the ground for a combined average of 5.9. Singletary had the obligatory “untouched” touchdown run, of five yards.

“They were able to find a rhythm running the ball,” said defensive end Myles Garrett. “They were able to get some direct runs and took advantage of some of the mistakes that were made.”

The most shocking thing of the game was Buffalo holding Nick Chubb to 19 yards on 14 rush attempts. Chubb had four runs of negative yards and one of zero.

“You look at it on the sideline. We are looking at the pictures, and it is us,” Brissett said. “It is not them; it is us. That is what I mean, shooting ourselves in the foot. Obviously, they are a good defense. Hats off to them. They came out and won. A lot of it was self-imposed.”

And of course, there were these self-inflicted wounds – another Cade York blocked field goal, this one not from long distance as the previous two but from 38 yards; and zero defensive turnovers to stem the momentum of the Bills in the second half.

Garrett blamed that deficiency on bad practices.

“It just has to be more of an emphasis in practice. It has been a lack of importance when we go out there and practice. It has to be more important to us if we want to force those takeaways in the game,” he said.

So the Browns have one more game against Tampa Bay in FirstEnergy Stadium before they hand the quarterback reins to Watson.

Will Stefanski approach that game any differently to light a spark to a team in such a deep funk?

“I don’t know about that,” the coach said. “We are in search of a win any which way we can get it. I know these guys are putting in the effort. We just have to finish football games, and it is just really frustrating again.”