November 23, 2014

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Second-quarter meltdown against Giants leaves Browns with 11th straight loss

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Running back Trent Richardson sat on the bench in the final, merciless minutes with a pink towel draped over his head. His expression seemed part-disappointment, part-disbelief.

Quarterback Brandon Weeden was bruised in the locker room from beating himself up. His blood was also boiling.

The rookies are 0-5 in their Browns careers. But that’s not even half of the depressing story.

The Browns dropped their 11th straight game Sunday, falling to the New York Giants 41-27 at a soaked MetLife Stadium.

The Browns have never had a worse streak in their 64-year history. They tied a franchise record set in 1974-75 under coaches Nick Skorich and Forrest Gregg.

Pat Shurmur owns this skid by himself. He fell to 4-17 in his tenure and hasn’t talked about a win since Nov. 20. No wonder his frustration level is off the charts.

“We had about a three-minute stretch there before the end of the first half, that just you know, Wow!” he said. “You can’t do that against a good football team.”

The game changed at the end of the second quarter and it was never the same. After the notoriously slow-starting Browns scored their first first-quarter touchdown of the season and raced to a 14-0 lead less than five minutes in, they were outscored 34-3 over the deciding stretch. The most pivotal part was the final four minutes of the second quarter.

“Probably the worst four minutes of football we’ve played all year,” Weeden said.

The Browns led 17-10 and had third-and-1 at the New York 25-yard line. Richardson was stuffed on the previous short-yardage attempt, and Shurmur called for a quick out to receiver Jordan Norwood.

When he was covered, Weeden should’ve thrown the ball away. He didn’t.

Backup safety Stevie Brown collected the pass that was high and wide of receiver Josh Gordon and returned it 46 yards.

“I don’t care if you are a rookie and I don’t care if you’ve been in the league a long time. You don’t do that,” Shurmur said. “And I think we need to get off this rookie kick, we’ve got to play ball.”

The situation — holding the lead for the first time since Week 1, in field-goal range, building confidence — made Weeden’s play unforgiveable.

“You don’t throw an interception on third-and-1,” Shurmur said. “We are in a situation and a part of the field there where you want to do the right thing with the football.”

Weeden couldn’t hide his frustration, either. He went 22-for-35 for 291 yards, two touchdowns to Gordon, two interceptions and an 84.3 rating. The second pick came in the end zone in the fourth quarter with a chance to trim the deficit to seven.

“I’m just (ticked) off. I don’t like being 0-5,” he said. “We all had a part in it, but I feel like I had a big part in it. I’ve got to change something. I’ve got to do something to give this team a chance to win.”

The first interception was the beginning of the end. But it didn’t have to be.

The defense could’ve stopped the Giants (3-2). Instead, it allowed a touchdown two plays later. The special teams could’ve sparked a rally. Instead, Joshua Cribbs fumbled the ensuing kickoff, which the Giants quickly converted into another touchdown, quarterback Eli Manning’s second of three to receiver Victor Cruz.

The offense could’ve found its form and matched scores. Instead, it failed to make a first down, giving the Giants the opportunity to kick a half-ending field goal.

“They stole the momentum with that,” safety T.J. Ward said of the interception. “But as a defense, even with the turnovers, we have to keep them out. Just because they turn the ball over doesn’t mean they get points. Our job is to get the ball back or stop them.”

The Giants scored 17 points in the final 2:52 for a 27-17 halftime lead.

“When one bad play happens to start that stretch, then you’ve got to, Boom!, stop the bleeding and everybody make their next best play and then you get back on the stick and you’re rolling,” Shurmur said. “We can’t let it snowball like it did there.”

The Giants are the defending Super Bowl champions and played like it for the final 55 minutes. Manning picked apart a wounded secondary, throwing for 259 yards, three touchdowns, an interception and a 103.3 rating.

Ahmad Bradshaw, who fumbled on the first snap to set up a Richardson 15-yard touchdown run, bounced back to rush 30 times for 200 yards. The Giants finished with 243 rushing yards, a 7.1 average, and 502 total yards.

The Browns ended the game without three of their best defenders. Middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson left in the second quarter with a concussion, cornerback Dimitri Patterson at the start of the second half with an ankle injury and defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin hurt his lower leg late.

The onslaught prompted a near-constant refrain of Ace Frehley’s “New York Groove.”

“They slept on us early,” Cribbs said. “We didn’t finish ’em. We didn’t pound this football team in the ground like we should.”

Weeden and Richardson provided glimpses of promise consistent with the first four games. Weeden threw a gorgeous 62-yard touchdown to Gordon in the first half, dropping it over his shoulder as he ran away from linebacker Chase Blackburn. Richardson rushed 17 times for 81 yards (4.8 average) and a touchdown and caught five passes for 47 yards.

“Every time Trent touched the ball he was a beast and I didn’t get hit very much,” Weeden said when asked for positives.

But he wasn’t in a glass-half-full kind of mood, and scoffed at the idea of a rookie mistake.

“Unfortunately those are long gone,” he said. “I’ve played five games now and it’s a tough league. Sometimes you do exactly what you want to do and it doesn’t go the way you want. It just sucks.

“I want to win so bad. Losing hurts. We’ve got to find a way. I’ve got to find a way.”
Richardson was preparing a pep talk for his quarterback.

“I’m with Brandon 100 percent,” he said. “Brandon shouldn’t take this upon himself and throw himself around about this game. If I would’ve made another person miss on a running play, Brandon wouldn’t have to throw the ball as much as he did.

“The game was bigger than Brandon, too. There are 10 other guys.”

And 11 straight losses.

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.