Browns 'outplayed in every phase' in Arizona
At 7-5, heading into a game against the 3-9 Jets, the Browns still have a chance at a good season.
Their 27-21 loss to the Cardinals, though, made their approach to greatness seem more distant than the far side of the Grand Canyon.
“We’re fighting for perfection,” tight end Kellen Winslow said. “We weren’t even close today.”
They were a judgment call from euphoria. Winslow caught a pass with no time left that could have won the game had it been ruled a 37-yard touchdown.
Instead, he was ruled out of bounds after getting pushed by cornerback Antrel Rolle.
Browns cornerback Daven Holly, who takes regular coaching about defending such plays, emphatically said it should have been a touchdown.
“If I’m playing that,” Holly said, “I know I’ve gotta knock the ball out, not let him catch it and push him.
“If I force him out and he hangs on to the ball, it’s a touchdown. I felt that was a force-out. It should have been called a touchdown.”
The play was reviewed but not overturned. Winslow said the Browns have been walking such a fine line, that they could be 5-7 or 10-2.
There was nothing fine about a loss that left Arizona at 6-6, 3-1 against the AFC North.
Linebacker Willie McGinest said the Browns can recover, but ...
“Bad football, turnovers, penalties, can’t stop ‘em when you need to ... we have only ourselves to blame.”
The Browns’ first play was a Derek Anderson pass 40 yards from any receiver.
That first series ended with an interception returned 71 yards by Rod Hood for a touchdown. The Browns’ second series ended when Anderson fumbled a snap, leading to a 14-0 Arizona lead.
“Obviously,” Anderson said, “I’ve got to play better early on.”
Cleveland rallied and twice pulled to within three points late. Receiver Braylon Edwards scored on a spectacular 67-yard play and finished with 149 yards, giving him 1,043 on the year.
With six minutes left, a Browns defense that allowed a season-low 302 yards gave up 79 of them at the worst possible time.
A short field goal gave the Cardinals a 27-21 lead with 1:48 left. A flag on the kick return -- one of 10 penalties on the day -- turned the drive to Winslow’s final play into a mad scramble.
“It never should have come down to a Hail Mary,” Anderson said.
Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt sold his team on the idea of being a huge underdog, even though oddsmakers had Arizona favored by a point.
“Nobody gave us a chance,” Whisenhunt said afterward. “Nobody thought we could do anything against these guys.”
The Browns did lead 379-302 in net yards. They got hurt, though, by Edgerrin James, who rushed for 114 yards, almost double his recent weekly rate. Playing from behind, the Browns couldn’t use Jamal Lewis as a battering ram. He rushed 45 yards in the first half, 17 in the second.
It was a day of general disgust for Romeo Crennel.
“We didn’t do a good enough job coaching,” he said. “We didn’t do a good enough job playing.”
Guard Eric Steinbach didn’t even think an afternoon in the Grand Canyon State was that good.
“They outplayed us in every phase,” Steinbach said. “We’ve showed we can score quickly, but why wait until the end of the game?
“Those are the things that are gonna bite us in the butt.”
Reach Repository sports writer Steve Doerschuk at (330) 580-8345 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org