It's Sunday and you're a Cleveland Browns fans who, despite your team being 0-8 on the season so far and nearly a year has gone by since you've seen a win, you feel excited that a road game against the Detroit Lions is close...really close. In fact, you're perched on the edge of your seat as you watch DeShone Kizer and the Browns offensive line shove the Lions around and score on their first two possessions. That little tickle of hope starts to build until, somewhere in the third quarter, you see things start coming apart at the seams. And then, when the heartbreak hits that your team came close, yet again, but failed, you wonder who to blame and how long the curse will last. That is the story of the Browns - and their fan base - and the dark hole they've fallen into after a 38-24 loss to the Lions and face the fact that a Jacksonville Jaguars team (that has beaten every other AFC North team this year) is next up on the schedule.
Kizer is the 'Heartbreak Kid'
Do you ever feel like there's a young guy out on the football field that you really like, deep down inside, as a person and wish they'd be successful on the field ... but they keep being thrown into impossible situations and you feel a little bit sorry when you're not really ticked off that your team lost another game? That young guy, in Cleveland, is Deshone Kizer.
For the first time in his 21-year-old life, Kizer played at a caliber very close to what an NFL starting quarterback should play like. He did so after a failed A.J. McCarron front office trade fiasco, a bye week, losing his spot to Kevin Hogan for a game and hearing Hue Jackson promise to stand beside him 100 percent and then toss him on the bench. If Kizer wasn't confident, it didn't show.
Sacked once, hit seven other times, Kizer was able to put 24 points on the scoreboard for the Browns offense and threw just one interception - a toss late in the final quarter that was pure desperation on their final possession in the game. His totals were decent, having completed 21-of-37 passes for 232 yards and keeping it to run seven times for 57 yards.
Kizer looked like he was ready to win his first NFL game until you could almost hear the air forced out of his lungs when Quandre Diggs crushed him. With six seconds left in the third quarter, Kizer lay prone on the turf and the scoreboard shown the two teams tied at 24. Helped off the field, Kizer - his ribs aching - didn't get back under center until there was just a little more than four minutes left in the game. The Lions had pulled ahead, 38-24, and Kizer wanted to impress his teammates - and his coach - and earn the respect he's been fighting for all season by winning. Fate stepped in and broke the hearts of Kizer and Cleveland fans alike.
Even in the loss, DeShone Kizer was gutsy and tough in what was unquestionably his best start of the season.
— Andrew Gribble (@Andrew_Gribble) November 12, 2017
DeShone Kizer's 4 rushing TDs this season are the most recorded by a @Browns QB since Brian Sipe had 4 in 1974.
— Dan Murphy (@DMurph_BrownsPR) November 12, 2017
There is no 'close enough' in pro football
A few critical plays seemed destined to play spoiler to the Browns on Sunday, and they were mainly self-inflicted wounds. Second-year tight end Seth Devalve suffered on one such play; David Njoku, Kizer, Cody Kessler and even Duke Johnson added to the misery of defeat. If there is one lesson to be learned in pro football, it is that there is no such thing as 'close enough'.
Devalve, sure-handed and capable, ran an out to the sideline and caught a laser of a pass from Kizer, but as he turned up-field, Lions cornerback Nevin Lawson hits him hard and jarred the ball loose. The ball bounced right into Lawson's hands as he was recovering and the defender ran 44 yards for a touchdown, untouched by a single Browns player.
— Detroit Lions (@Lions) November 12, 2017
Later, Kizer got the offense lined up just outside the two-yard line - five receivers wide - and Njoku was open in an end zone fade only to catch the ball out of bounds. So, with 15 seconds left before halftime, the Browns lined up and looked to run it in. Instead, Kizer committed a rookie move that can be attributed to anxiety and that incessant need to prove he's worth something; he attempted to sneak it in but he was about two-yards short of the goal line and the Lions halted all progress easily to end the half. The frustration was too much for Johnson who ripped his helmet off, slammed it to the turf and drew a penalty that would be enforced when the second half opened.
The Browns came back after the half when Isaiah Crowell was able to grind into the end zone and the defense held the Lions only to flip the field and see the Cleveland offense score again. This time Kizer's sneak into the end zone was successful; on the next possession, Kizer was knocked out of the game by Diggs. Enter Kessler who was sacked for a loss of two yards, completed just one-of-three passes (missing a wide-open Bryce Treggs) and helped give the game back to Detroit (along with poor defensive play). Enter Kizer once again and ... well, you know how it went.
So close, but there is no such thing as 'close enough'.
Run game found
On a positive note, the Browns finally found and used the run game. The Browns ran for 118 yards in the second half alone while totaling 201 yards on the ground for the game. And the Lions defense is good against the run; ask the Pittsburgh Steelers. Crowell averaged 5.6 yards per carry and Johnson was a nice contributor as well. Until this game, Cleveland hadn't committed to the run and now that they've found success, they should utilize it the rest of this season. After all, why not?
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) November 12, 2017
The Browns will host the Jaguars on Sunday, November 11, hoping to ride the positives and eliminate the plague of mistakes against a team that has shown resiliency and tenacity on offense and defense.