Another All-Time Meltdown Just Par For The Course For The Browns

Jets receiver Garrett Wilson came back from an injury in the third quarter to score the winning touchdown in an epic, 31-30 win over the Browns. (

Jets receiver Garrett Wilson came back from an injury in the third quarter to score the winning touchdown in an epic, 31-30 win over the Browns. (

Another all-time meltdown just par for the course for the Browns

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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.

Whatever was the worst Browns’ loss in your lifetime, it was surpassed on Sunday.

You might recall something similar in a game against the Chicago Bears in 2001, when the Browns lost on a Hail Mary, an onside kick and a pick 6 in overtime.

But this epic meltdown trumped that one because the Browns were at home with a chance to start a season 2-0 for the first time since 1993.

“I don’t believe it. I thought it was over. Some of the guys on their side thought it was over,” said safety John Johnson after the New York Jets turned a 30-17 Browns’ lead into a 31-30 loss in the final 1 minute, 55 seconds.

What happened was this:

* Nick Chubb scored on a 12-yard run -- his third touchdown of the game -- with 1:55 to go. You can say that Chubb should have fallen down in bounds to keep the clock running because the Jets were out of timeouts. Three kneeldowns at the 1 win the game for the Browns, 24-17. 

But who knew?

The Jets knew.

“When he scores, you’re thinking, ‘OK, that is not what he is supposed to do,’” said Jets quarterback Joe Flacco after the game.

* Then Cade York, Mr. Automatic, missed the PAT wide right.

York had a premonition on Wednesday after his heroic first game. He said, “Next week is a new game and Cleveland can hate me after the next game.”

Nobody’s hating on York, but nothing good results from a missed PAT, right?

* After the ensuing touchback on the Browns’ kickoff, it took Flacco two plays to find the end zone. The second play was a 66-yard connection to Corey Davis on which he sped behind the miscommunicating Browns’ secondary.

“We talked about it on the sideline before everybody went out and talked to the entire defnse about what they were about to do, which was try and throw it over our head. We can’t let that happen,” said coach Kevin Stefanski.

“Unexplainable [that it happened for the second game in a row],” Johnson said. “Communicating is sending and receiving. There are guys sending but some not receiving.”

On this breakdown, cornerback Denzel Ward gave up coverage. Grant Delpit is the last line of defense and the safety did not follow Davis.

* So, it’s 30-24, Browns, with 1:20 to play. With the Browns on the field expecting a Jets’ onside kick, Stefanski called timeout and pulled his “hands” team to the sideline.

“Just wanted to look at how they were setting up with their kicker,” Stefanski said. “Just trying to look at his approach and just confirm what side that type of kick was coming to.”

Punter Braden Mann executed the onside kick. Earlier, he completed a fourth-down pass out of punt formation to keep alive the Jets’ first touchdown drive.

Mann kicked it exactly where the Browns anticipated – to the left sideline. Amari Cooper was in position to field the ball, but he waited for it to come to him.

Cooper’s hesitation gave Jets safety Will Parks time to deflect the ball and cornerback Justin Hardee recovered at the Jets’ 47.

It ruined a good game for Cooper, who connected with Brissett on nine of 10 targets for 101 yards and a 6-yard touchdown.

“I think we all know there are more plays in the game than the onside kick,” Brissett said.

Unfortunately, he was right.

* With no timeouts at his disposal, Flacco coolly kept hitting little sideline outs and crosses that allowed his receivers to run out of bounds to stop the clock.

Flacco got to the Browns’ 15 with 35 seconds left. His first pass was incomplete. His second pass was incomplete. His third pass was a dart to rookie Garrett Wilson, the former Buckeye great, who slipped behind Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah in the middle of the field and completed the touchdown. 

Kicker Greg Zeuerlein, the original Legatron, made the PAT to give the Jets their only lead of the game, 31-30.

* After the Jets’ touchback, Brissett made a mad scramble down the left side of the field and ran out of bounds at the Browns’ 46. There were 12 seconds left. He needed 14 yards to “get to the 40” – the new battle-cry to set up another York long-distance game-winner.

Brissett threw for a Cooper a little deeper than he needed, and it was intercepted by Ashtyn Davis. Flacco then came on to kneel down right on the belt buckle of the newly-laid, giant Brownie the Elf insignia in the middle of the field to claim his 18th victory in 21 career starts against the Browns. It was his first win as a Jets backup quarterback and Flacco’s first for any team since October of 2019.

It was devastating to the home-opener crowd. Fans cursed angrily as they exited FirstEnergy Stadium.

They had seen Nick Chubb (three touchdowns) and Kareem Hunt do their thing to open a 30-17 lead. They had seen Brissett play flawlessly (22 of 29 for 229 yards, 98.9 passer rating) until the final interception.

But they also had seen the defense blow another double-figure lead. That’s two times in two games – one to Baker Mayfield, one to Flacco. And they had seen the special teams get thoroughly outplayed, surrendering a fake punt and losing the clutch onside kick. Also, Zeuerlein made a 57-yard field goal to begin the fourth quarter.

So there was plenty to boo.

“The more disappointing thing was the booing at the end,” a winded Myles Garrett said. “It was not the most optimal ending to have. Of course, we want to win. Of course, we want to play out the game and it ends, 30-16, or 30-17, whatever it was. We get a pick or a strip sack and end the game, but that’s not always how it goes.

“These guys are still putting their asses on the line and playing as hard as they can and they should be respected as such. It’s two games and we have plenty more to play, especially this next one coming up [against the 1-1 Steelers] in front of the home crowd. We have a lot of time to correct what we are doing so we don’t want to see this crowd, this stadium give up on us this early.”

But there’s so much history the fans have had with these kind of harrowing losses.

Since 2001, there have been 2,229 NFL games in which the team leading by 13 points in the final two minutes held on to win.

The last team to blow it before Sunday was the Browns in Chicago.

Why does this keep happening?