November 23, 2014

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Browns analysis: Team still finding ways to lose

CLEVELAND — Two weeks, two second-half collapses, and two disap­pointing losses.

Obviously, this was not the way the Browns envi­sioned the start of their season.

The Kansas City Chiefs handed out the heartache Sunday afternoon, shutting out their hosts for the final 38 minutes in rallying for a 16-14 win at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

“I’m disappointed because I know we’re capable of doing so much more,” Cleve­land wide receiver Joshua Cribbs said.

“With the talented guys we have, we’re not going into any games thinking we can’t win. Everyone in this locker room wants to win.

“We have to win.We have to win for our confi­dence.

We just have to win.” And yet, the Browns failed to win for the sec­ond time in eight days — following an eerily similar script from their season opener in Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers blanked them for the last 35 minutes en route to a 17-14 come-from-behind victory. “We were up 14-10 in both of those games,” Cleveland coach Eric Mangini pointed out. “I felt like we did some posi­tive things in both of those games.

“But there is a certain way that we have to play to be successful, and if we don’t play that way, we’re going to have a lot more of these (unpleasant) postgame conversations.” While the Tampa Bay defeat was infuri­ating on many levels, the loss to Kansas City was more disappointing than any­thing else.

The Browns’ defense played well and held the Chiefs without an offensive touchdown, intercepting Matt Cassel twice and preventing running backs Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones from breaking off long runs.

But the same unit allowed six unan­swered points in the second half, includ­ing a 23-yard game-winning field goal by Ryan Succop with 7:41 left.

“The Browns played great today,” Charles said. “We just came out and wanted it more. Everything wasn’t perfect, but people stepped up and made plays.”

Cleveland veteran Phil Dawson, one of the most reliable kickers in the NFL, missed a 42-yard field goal at the end of the first half. It would have been a 27yard try, but normally level-headed center Alex Mack pushed the Browns back by being flagged for unnecessary roughness two plays earlier.

“We don’t practice it, we don’t tolerate it, it’s not good football, it’s not smart football and it’s not winning football,” Mangini said. “We can’t play that way.”

Finally, Cleveland quarterback Seneca Wallace performed admirably on all but one of his 57 snaps. The lone exception, though, was a doozy as Kansas City cornerback Brandon Flowers ran it back 33 yards for a touchdown.

“Everybody just has to make a play when it presents itself,” Flowers said.

“That’s all I did, and that’s all every one of us has done in these first two games.” After spending the summer dreaming about wins over supposedly weaker teams in Tampa Bay and Kansas City, the Browns’ first two games played out like a nightmare — complete with ghosts of great players from the past as part of their new “Ring of Honor.”

While the Buccaneers and Chiefs are both flying high at 2-0, Cleveland finds itself looking up at the rest of the AFC North at 0-2. And by glancing at their schedule, it’s clear that things might get worse before they get better.

“This is not the way it should be,” Mangini said. “The players understand that and I understand that.

“I’m disappointed for all of us because the result should be different, but until we change the self-inflicted wounds, it’s going to be hard. It’s going to be hard for us, week in and week out.”

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Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.