CLEVELAND, Ohio — Scribbles in my Cleveland Browns notebook after their 33-16 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in London as I watched it on TV:
1. After the game, Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson said: “Everything has to be perfect for us to win a football game … we all know that football isn’t played that way.”
2. Even on the radio all the way from England, you could hear the discouragement in Jackson’s voice. In this game, their lack of talent and experience was so obvious. The way you make up for some mistakes — and imperfections — is with big plays. The Browns have very few playmakers on the roster.
3. Sometimes coaches say that because they really don’t know what else they can do to change the course of the season. They work hard. The players work hard. They try different strategies. But they just keep losing.
4. This was the kind of game that a good team could win … and a losing team finds a way to lose. And the Browns are now 0-8. They were in front, 13-12, at the half. They were behind, 23-16, after three quarters. But then they wore down and folded, outscored, 17-0, in the fourth quarter.
5. I was engaged in the game because I expected the Browns to be blown out. In the previous three games played in London, the average margin of defeat was 30 points. Minnesota entered the game at 5-2 and on a three-game winning streak. They are in first place in the NFC North and extremely motivated.
6. After the game, Jackson also told the media in London that his team “Plays hard, they don’t give up … they gave everything they had, just came up short.”
7. I tend to agree with Jackson on the effort. But the mistakes … sigh. Rookie kicker Zane Gonzalez is in danger of losing his job. He missed an extra point. He missed a 35-yard field goal. The Browns seventh-round pick is 2-of-5 on field goals in the 30-to-39 yard range this season. Those should be automatic.
8. Isaiah Crowell fumbled on the first play of the third quarter. The Browns had a 13-12 lead and a chance to establish something, but that turnover led to a field goal for Minnesota.
9. Briean Boddy-Calhoun was flagged for a dubious pass interference penalty in the end zone, leading to a Vikings TD. Bryce Treggs fumbled a punt, and that became three points for Minnesota.
10. While DeShone Kizer didn’t throw any interceptions for the first time this season, the Browns two fumbles led to six points for the Vikings.
11. Kizer went the distance for the first time in his last three starts. Jackson helped his rookie quarterback by not ordering too many long passing plays.
12. This is not to claim Kizer had a great day. He was 18-of-34 passing, only 53 percent. His biggest gain on a pass was for 38 yards to Isaiah Crowell, but that was a shovel pass that traveled about 8 yards in the air.
13. Crowell not only made a good play on the shovel pass from Kizer, he also scored on a 26-yard run in the first quarter. That is his longest run from scrimmage this season.
14. Rookie tight end David Njoku was no help to Kizer. He had two drops, at least by my count. He also was flagged for a silly offensive pass interference play.
15. The wide receivers were nearly invisible. Ricardo Louis made a nice catch on a long throw from Kizer, covering 38 yards. Kenny Britt didn’t play. There’s just not much talent at receiver.
16. Carl Nassib had his best game as a pro. Starting in place of Myles Garrett (concussion), Nassib deflected two passes. One of them became an interception for Joe Schobert. He also had a sack.
17. The Browns really missed veteran Jason McCourty (ankle injury) in the secondary. There seemed even more confusion than normal. Jamar Taylor and Ibraheim Campbell were pointing at each other when Minnesota’s leading receiver, Adam Thielen, was left wide open in the end zone for a TD.
18. My guess is Campbell was supposed to come over from his safety spot to cover. The Browns had a similar breakdown on a long pass in Houston. Taylor was covering, allowed Will Fuller to go behind him. Jabrill Peppers was supposed to pick up Will Fulmer. He was late and it became a 39-yard gain.
19. Even with the Browns playing their safeties extremely deep, it is disheartening to see communication breakdowns like these.
20. Jamie Collins had a quarterback hit and three tackles for loss behind the line of scrimmage. He did have an unwise roughing-the-passer penalty to keep a Minnesota TD drive alive. But overall, Collins was very good.
21. I thought Spencer Drango did a decent job replacing the injured Joe Thomas at left tackle. The Browns used some schemes to help Drango, but he wasn’t a disaster.
22. The Browns now have a bye week, so they have two weeks to look at their roster and make some moves. They are the first team since the 1993-94 Cincinnati Bengals to start back-to-back seasons at 0-8.
23. The 1993 Cincinnati Bengals opened the season with an 0-10 record, finished 3-13.
24. The 1994 Bengals opened with an 0-8 record and finished 3-13. David Shula coached both of those teams. They kept Shula on the job and the Bengals were 7-9 in 1995.
25. I do hope the Browns don’t fire Jackson. I don’t see any point to a midseason change.
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