Does anybody have a gravestone handy? Because the Cleveland Browns' 27-11 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers marked the death of the team's 2013 NFL season.
Last week's loss to the Cincinnati Bengals hurt, but the loss could be somewhat pinned on an abomination of a second quarter collapse. This week, the Browns were pretty much dominated from start-to-finish by the Steelers, a team that started the season at 0-4 and yet has now sent Cleveland back to the basement of the AFC North.
The Steelers connected on a 46-yard field goal on their opening possession to go up 3-0. The Browns retaliated with a 49-yard field goal on their first possession to tie the game at 3-3. For the rest of the first half, nothing was really happening for either team. With just over two minutes to play in the first half, though, Ben Roethlisberger found wide receiver Antonio Brown for a 41-yard touchdown, beating cornerback Joe Haden on the play.
The Browns were threatening at the end of the first half, but a fumble by running back Chris Ogbonnaya allowed the Steelers to tack on a field goal to make it 13-3 heading into the half.
After the Browns' defense got a fourth-down stop near midfield in the third quarter, Cleveland's offense was on the move again, but Jason Campbell took a blindside hit and was stripped of the football. The Steelers recovered the fumble and returned the ball to the 4 yard line. One play later, Roethlisberger connected with wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders for a touchdown to go ahead 20-3.
Campbell had to leave the game after taking a hit on the play he fumbled on, so Brandon Weeden was under center for the rest of the day. He tried to lead a drive and set up a long field goal attempt for Cundiff into the wind, but it wasn't even close. In the fourth quarter with under five minutes to go, Weeden was picked off by William Gay, who returned it for a touchdown to put Pittsburgh up 27-3.
In garbage time, Weeden then went into full-on "throw to Josh Gordon" mode. With 3:17 to play, Weeden found Gordon for a 1-yard touchdown pass, and converted the two-point conversion to Davone Bess to make it 27-11. That was the end of the game.
The Browns got poor protection from their offensive line, despite the fact that the Steelers were missing several of their defenders. Campbell looked indecisive again before taking a shot to the end (concussion) that wasn't called. The defense never got close to laying a finger on Roethlisberger. It was a game that just sucked the life out of everything Cleveland fans tried to buy in to this season.
If there is one thing you want to think positively on, Gordon set franchise records today with 14 catches for 237 yards and 1 touchdown. We can still fantasize after this week about a playoff spot, but the truth is that a 5-1 record to finish the season would be our only realistic chance of getting there. Odds are, that's not going to happen.