LANDOVER, Md. -- The Cleveland Browns were in position to steal a win, their first of the season.
But at a key point of the game, one running back was hurt, the other was being checked for a concussion. Hue Jackson turned to a fullback at running back, and the result short-circuited a promising comeback and resulted in a 31-20 loss to the Washington Redskins.
The Browns had turned a around a 14-0 first-quarter deficit to Washington and led 20-17 late in the third quarter. Cleveland was controlling the game and had driven from its 23-yard line to the Washington 16 with 1:14 left.
Isaiah Crowell had just broken three tackles on a 14-yard catch and run on third-and-8. Backup Duke Johnson was being checked for a concussion. So coach Hue Jackson lined up fullback Malcolm Johnson at tailback and tried to power-run off the right tackle.
Johnson gained 2 yards. Then he fumbled, and Washington recovered.
It was the first carry of Johnson's career, which comprises last season and these four games.
"That has nothing to do with it," Jackson said. "Malcolm practices at that position carrying the ball. Malcolm's a pro football player that gets paid on our football team and he can carry the ball. He's got to do a better job."
Washington turned that turnover into a 91-yard drive and the go-ahead touchdown. The Browns added two more turnovers on a Duke Johnson fumble -- the Browns disputed that Washington recovered -- and a Josh Norman interception. When Washington scored another touchdown with just over four minutes left, the Browns were down 11 points, which accounted for the final score.
At points of the game, it seemed like the Browns deserved better. It also seemed like they were on the verge of taking control of the game. But Jackson preached all week about the importance of "finishing" a game. The Browns did not finish.
Their "reward": Facing Tom Brady next Sunday in his first game back from his Deflategate suspension.
"I think the wins are right around the corner," Jackson said. "I really do. We've been in the last three ballgames."