While bummed by blowing Sunday’s bout with the Bengals, Browns players were conscious of the calendar. “Hopefully,” kicker Phil Dawson said, “with Christmas being (today), we can put this one to bed, focus on what’s really important the next two days then come back refreshed and focused on winning a game.”
Certain grizzled warhorses say football is not a matter of life and death. It’s more important than that.
The Browns weren’t looking at the game quite that severely. While bummed by blowing Sunday’s bout with the Bengals, they were conscious of the calendar.
“Hopefully,” kicker Phil Dawson said, “with Christmas being (today), we can put this one to bed, focus on what’s really important the next two days then come back refreshed and focused on winning a game.”
Dawson is a central figure in a season that winds to the regular-season finale against the 49ers with the record at 9-6.
Pro Bowl return man Joshua Cribbs couldn’t quite break a long one that might have made the record 10-5, after a playoff-clinching win. He didn’t think it changed his manhood.
“I can honestly look myself in the mirror and say I did everything I could,” Cribbs said.
“I’m gonna go home and enjoy my family. You know ... Christmas. Enjoy the Christmas holidays, and then come strong Wednesday.”
The quiet locker room was clearing out. The plane back to Cleveland was waiting. At that moment, the Titans were playing the Jets in a game that could have backed the Browns into the playofffs.
“I don’t even want to watch it right now,” defensive lineman Shaun Smith said. “I just want to go see my family.”
Sunday should be fun for any family that follows the Browns. They will face the 49ers at 1 p.m. in a game they don’t even have to win. All they need to get to the postseason is for the Titans to lose at Indianapolis. But the Titans did beat the Jets to stay alive.
Talk about pregnant pauses. Titans vs. Colts won’t kick off until 8:15 p.m.
Running back Jason Wright wasn’t thinking that far ahead as he walked out of Paul Brown Stadium Sunday at nightfall.
“I’m gonna go home, hang out with my fiancee, enjoy the day before Christmas eve, eat some dinner, kind of just let it go,” Wright said.
The loss didn’t wipe a gleam from his eye.
“I’m expecting to have an opportunity to win and get in,” he said. “It’s just something I believe in.”
It’s hard to believe the Browns don’t need to win to get in. But if Tennessee wins, the Titans are in; the Browns are out. That didn’t have to be. Cleveland beating Cincinnati would have eliminated Tennessee.
“It was on us, and we didn’t get it done,” said frustrated Bengal-turned-Brown Eric Steinbach.
As the week goes on, playoff anxiety figures to build. To think the Browns could have clinched at Cincinnati. It wasn’t the only thing to think.
A while after recovering a fumble that might have led to a win, linebacker D’Qwell Jackson wasn’t in the mood to mourn a loss.
“We’ve got our heads up,” he said. “Christmas is here. Let’s enjoy Christmas with our families and then get back to work.”
Reach Repository sports writer Steve Doerschuk at (330) 580-8347 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.