CINCINNATI -- It has come to this: A team desperate for a win is hoping that a player who hasn’t been on a field in almost three years can make a difference in finding a victory.
The Browns fell to 0-11 on Sunday with a 30-16 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. They are 1-26 since executive vice president Sashi Brown and coach Hue Jackson were hired to take over the team.
The Browns now desperately hope that Josh Gordon can somehow return and be the same guy who had back-to-back 200-yard games in 2013. Gordon led the league in receiving that season. He’s played in five games since, the last on Dec. 21, 2014, a loss to Carolina. In his last three games Gordon had two, three and four receptions, and caught 50 percent of the passes thrown his way.
Gordon told the media earlier this month that he does not want to be looked on as any kind of savior upon his return from suspension, but that’s where the Browns are as they stumble through a miserable season.
Hoping that a guy who has not played in three years can be the catalyst to avoid a winless season.
What it means: Another Sunday, another imperfect performance. The defense gave up two passing touchdowns, and for much of the game the offense could not take advantage of its opportunities. The Browns play hard, but they don’t often play well. Witness Corey Coleman dropping a touchdown pass that could have made the score 23-13. Instead, the Browns got a field goal. This team seems a long way from actually winning a game this season.
What I liked: DeShone Kizer had a good game, with no interceptions and 268 yards passing. That Coleman dropped a perfect throw between defenders wasn’t Kizer’s fault. Overall, Kizer looked good in the pocket. The biggest problem: The offense didn’t get in the end zone until the fourth quarter, and by that time, the Browns were down 14. On a day when Kizer threw well and the two running backs both averaged more than 5 yards per carry, the Browns scored one touchdown and lost by 14.
What I didn’t like: Bryce Treggs put his future with the Browns in doubt with an absurd and illogical taunting penalty in the first half that helped the Bengals continue a field-goal drive. This is not fiction: A player on a winless team was flagged for taunting after a play. Treggs is playing because the Browns can’t count on Kenny Britt, but a player puts his future in question when he acts that immaturely. Especially when Treggs has only five catches this season and eight in his career. It was a foolish mistake by a player on a struggling team.
Fantasy fallout: The absence of David Njoku in the red zone was odd. The Browns were in the scoring zone four times, but did not throw to Njoku until the fourth quarter. His size and strength should provide mismatches. He was flagged for offensive interference early and after that was barely visible in the offense.
Short of perfect: Twice in the first half and once in the fourth quarter, the Browns had opportunities for interceptions that could have changed the flow of the game. All three times they did not make catches, as Briean Boddy-Calhoun (twice) and Joe Schobert (once) did not handle the ball. They weren’t easy catches, but they can be the difference between a game being close in the fourth quarter and out of reach. It’s these kinds of plays that Jackson refers to when he says his team has to be perfect to win.
What’s next: Barring a setback, Gordon will make his debut in Los Angeles against the Chargers next Sunday.