His eyes filled with tears, Joe Haden’s voice cracked as his emotions alternated between disgust and disbelief.
Of all the losses, this one hit Haden hardest.
Cleveland’s hopeful season is shattered.
Haden was beaten by Jacksonville wide receiver Cecil Shorts for a 20-yard TD pass from Chad Henne with 40 seconds left as the rejuvenated Jaguars rallied for a 32-28 win on Sunday over the Browns, who dropped their third straight, sixth in seven games and seen their playoff hopes disappear.
Afterward, Haden struggled to stay composed.
“I don’t know, man,” Haden said, trying to figure what has happened to a promising season. “I don’t know. We can’t stand losing, it hurts. I go out there and put my heart out there every time. Every time. And we end up coming up short.”
The Browns (4-8) had taken a 28-25 lead with 3:55 left on Brandon Weeden’s stunning 95-yard touchdown pass to Josh Gordon, who caught 10 passes for 261 yards and became the first player in NFL history to record 200 receiving yards in consecutive games. But Cleveland’s defense couldn’t stop Henne, who drove the Jaguars (3-9) for the go-ahead score.
Haden, who has had a Pro Bowl-caliber season, took responsibility for the TD.
“It was my fault,” Haden said. “He ran a good route, a good play. Don’t take anything from our D, we’re out there every time grinding, fighting. This hurts. Every time we start losing, we’re tired of it and there’s nothing we can say.”
Three weeks ago, the Browns seemed on the verge of finally turning the corner. At 4-5, they were in the playoff chase. But losses to Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and now Jacksonville, has not only dropped them from contention, but the Browns are staring at another likely double-digit loss season.
“I’m very disappointed,” said safety T.J. Ward. “We’ve got to learn how to finish.”
The beleaguered Weeden, back in the starting lineup because Jason Campbell has a concussion, suffered a head injury after a mixed performance. He threw three touchdown passes, two interceptions and had to kick a ball snapped high over his head out of the end zone for a safety.
After passing for 370 yards, Weeden complained of feeling poorly and was diagnosed with a concussion, team spokesman Zak Gilbert said. Because of his injury, per league rules, Weeden was kept from speaking to reporters. With Campbell also not yet cleared to play, the Browns may be forced to start recently signed Alex Tanney next week at New England.
Down 21-20 and with their offense doing nothing, the Jaguars took the lead when Browns center Alex Mack snapped the ball over Weeden’s head into the end zone and the QB alertly booted it out of bounds.
“It’s 100 percent my fault,” Mack said. “I’m going to think about it a lot.”
The Jaguars went up 25-22 on Josh Scobee’s 25-yard field goal with 4:14 left, but the Browns responded with Weeden’s throw to Gordon, who caught the ball at Cleveland’s 22, broke a tackle and outran two defenders to the end zone.
It was up to Cleveland’s defense to protect the lead, but the Browns’ best unit all season couldn’t get the job done.
“That’s on the entire defense,” linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said, taking some of the heat off Haden. “That’s not on one man and it would be a crime to put it on one man. It’s 11 guys out there each and every snap. That play was on our entire defense.”
Jackson believes the Browns are close. There’s plenty of talent, but the team hasn’t figured out how to win.
“I wish I had a magic wand,” he said. “You can look back and say what-if or what we could have done differently. We feel like we’re right there. That’s why guys are disappointed. We’re not finishing games. That’s the frustrating part.”
The Browns began giving it away in the second quarter, when three turnovers in the final 2:35 allowed the Jaguars to score 13 points and take a 20-14 lead.
“It was a huge momentum swing going into the half,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said. “We can’t have that. They were able to get 13 points in a short amount of time and it really changed the complexion of the game. Those critical mistakes are killing us.”