Everything seemed to be going the Cleveland Browns' way. They had won three game in a row, were hosting their final home game of the season, and were getting a Redskins team without Robert Griffin III. Even the start of this week's game looked to have everything going in Cleveland's favor. Kirk Cousins look rattled and threw an early interception, and Cleveland capitalized with a touchdown to go up 7-0. Even at halftime, despite not playing very well on offense, the Browns held a 14-10 lead. They were getting the ball first in the third quarter. That's went everything went to hell.
The Browns were outscored 28-7 in the second half en route to a 38-21 loss. On the second play of the half, Brandon Weeden was intercepted by a linebacker dropping back in zone coverage. That set up an Alfred Morris touchdown run, making it 17-14 Redskins. The Browns followed with a three-and-out, and Cousins and company started tearing up the Browns' defense. They put together a touchdown drive to take a multiple-possession lead midway through the third quarter at 24-14.
Later in the third quarter, the Browns forced a punt and it looked like Cleveland might get back in the game after pass completions of 12 and 28 yards to get into Redskin territory. Then, Weeden underthrew an open Greg Little and was picked off by linebacker London Fletcher. The Redskins proceeded to drive down for another touchdown, making it a 31-14 game near the start of the fourth quarter.
The Browns got one more glimmer of hope when Weeden connected with Travis Benjamin on a 69-yard touchdown pass right after that, making it 31-21 Redskins. Washington started driving down the field again and fumbled with under six minutes to go. Usama Young was in position to make the recovery, but he booted it and allowed Washington to recover it in a scrum. One play later, the Redskins put in the final dagger with a touchdown run.
This is a hard loss to take, given the recent optimism for Browns fans. You almost wish you could chalk this up to just an "off day" for the Browns, just like the Giants and Buccaneers were completely dismantled by teams like the Falcons and Saints. Digging deeper, though, Weeden clearly never had it. He wasn't comfortable throwing against a poorly-ranked pass defense. Even when Cleveland had some opportunities in the second half, he threw two interceptions that gave all of the momentum to Washington.
To the credit of the Redskins, they executed their gameplan very well with Cousins, and Cleveland had no answer for the bootleg rollout all game long. It doesn't help when you factor in some other elements -- like Reggie Hodges' awful punting -- into the mix.
With the loss, Cleveland is officially eliminated from playoff contention. This game was certainly a disappointment, but let's not let the team's recent streak of good play go to waste. There are still two more games left on the season in hopes that this team can regroup and finish the season out strong.