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Browns circling the wagons despite 4-2 start

Team working to block out the noise following its annual road loss to Pittsburgh.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns will head to Cincinnati to face the Bengals on Sunday sporting a 4-2 record, their best mark after six games since the 2001 season.

While that record only has the Browns in third place in the AFC North thanks to being in the same division as the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, it is good enough to give the Browns a firm grip on the sixth playoff seed in the AFC.

That might be hard for some to comprehend given the noise that has surrounded the Browns since losing to the Steelers this past Sunday, a defeat that was not all that surprising since losing in Pittsburgh is kind of what the Browns do.

Outside of a four-game winning streak in the late 1980s, the Browns have only won twice in Pittsburgh in the past 50 years. So while the defeat was disappointing, especially since the Browns were not competitive, it was not unexpected.

But since it came against the Steelers, the loss was magnified and the Browns spent Wednesday circling the wagons to drown out the noise.

At the center of that angst is quarterback Baker Mayfield, who picked a poor time to have his worst game of the year on Sunday. (Perhaps picked is a poor choice of words, since Mayfield threw two interceptions against the Steelers, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Sorry about that.)

Things have reached the point where Mayfield said the team is starting to feel as if the ghost of former head coach Hue Jackson is haunting team headquarters, as Mayfield told Nate Ulrich of The Beacon Journal:

“I would say the feeling throughout the building after that loss, 4-2 never felt so much like 0-6 before. I don’t give a damn what (the critics) say. It’s within this building. We know we can do better. I know I can do better. And that’s how it’s going to be handled. The outside noise doesn’t matter. They get paid to talk. We get paid to do our work.”

It also would not be a Browns week without wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr having to explain another, well, Odell Beckham Jr. moment.

This time it came about over Beckham’s antics during the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss after the starters were pulled from the game. Beckham threw his helmet and gloves, hit a cooler, and removed his cleats.

Beckham explained that it was all out of frustration over how the day went, according to Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com:

“I’m pissed [at that time]. And at this point, I really don’t care to keep trying to make myself look like a good guy to the world and all of that sh— because I am who I am. I got pulled out of the game, the coach said this was the best decision. It’s 8 minutes left, and for me I’d rather take my ass-whupping like a man. I want to be out there until the last whistle competing.”

Finally, there was center JC Tretter, a bright guy who is in his fourth season with the Browns but has apparently only caught on to how weird things can be with this franchise, as he told The Beacon Journal’s Nate Ulrich:

“On the outside, it’s been kind of a weird three days with how this team is looked at from post-Indianapolis to post-Pittsburgh. ... We put four good games together, and then we drop the ball against Pittsburgh. That’s something we need to improve on, but it doesn’t change anything about how we feel we can play or how we can execute.”

Winning is supposed to cure most ills, but that has not been the case with the Browns this week. The team is just one year removed from a disappointing season, and three years removed from the end of a 1-31 streak. But lose the annual road game to the Steelers and suddenly the wheels are allegedly coming off.

In other words, just another week in Browns Town.