Only the Cleveland Browns could find a way to lose like they did on Sunday in Foxborough. They led 19-3 at one point and even had a 26-14 lead with 2:39 to play in the game. Then New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady woke up.
As heartbreaking of a loss as it was, it was still a step in the right direction. The Browns had been playing like the worst team in the NFL the last three weeks. They didn’t look like it on Sunday.
The offense, which had been anemic at best the past three games, sprang to life. The Browns were aggressive, efficient and good enough to win the game.
While most observations in losses tend to be negatives, I instead will try and focus on the positives. There were certainly plenty.
Here are some takeaways from the Browns' heartbreaking 27-26 loss to the Patriots on Sunday.
Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski has had to deal with a lot in his first season in Cleveland. On Sunday he showed quite a bit of what he is made of as a motivator and leader.
The Browns were in the midst of a quarterback debacle, were coming off of a terrible loss to Jacksonville, and had essentially nothing to play for.
Nonetheless, he had his guys ready to play and motivated to win.
In the NFL, it is easy to lose a locker room once the playoffs are no longer in the picture. Despite having no real end goal, Chud had his team amped up to go into Foxborough and try to knock off the mighty Patriots.
He looks more and more like a legitimate NFL coach each week. He could be in Cleveland for quite some time.
Last week I wrote that if wide receiver Josh Gordon could have a big game against Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and his defensive schemes, then he might be better than we thought.
It’s time to expect greatness, because this kid is legitimate.
The Patriots entered the game knowing that the one weapon they had to stop was Gordon. They rolled coverages to his side of the field, tried jamming him at the line of scrimmage, and did anything else they could think of to slow down the young man.
All Gordon did was catch seven passes for 151 yards and a touchdown.
On his 80-yard touchdown catch, he displayed his speed, strength and route running. It was a thing of beauty.
Did I mention he led the Browns in rushing Sunday too? He had one carry for 34 yards.
It had been five games since tight end Jordan Cameron had more than 43 receiving yards, and it had been six games since he scored a touchdown. On Sunday, he exploded for 121 yards and finally found the end zone.
It had been a long journey for Cameron, who is learning to deal with what defenses are throwing at him. He no longer gets free releases down the seam to catch big passes. Teams are also being more physical with Cameron at the line of scrimmage.
On Sunday none of that mattered, however. He was the emerging playmaker we saw early in the season.
The last two full games quarterback Jason Campbell has played for the Browns are a microcosm of his entire career. He has been a walking roller coaster with huge peaks and even bigger valleys.
On November 17 against the Cincinnati Bengals, he threw for 248 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. He finished that game with a 44.3 quarterback rating.
Sunday, he threw for 391 yards with three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 116.8 quarterback rating.
If he could have ever figured out how to be consistent, he may have had a great professional career. Unfortunately, it’s that inconsistency which has made him bounce around the NFL as a journeyman quarterback.
Let’s start off by saying that the officials did not lose the game for the Browns.
They were pretty awful both ways, and they also did not allow Tom Brady to cut through the secondary with ease in the final two minute. That’s on the Browns.
They were pretty damn awful, however.
The pass interference call that gave the Patriots the ball at the 1-yard line on their last drive should not have been called. Cornerback Leon McFadden did make contact with the receiver, but there was nowhere near enough jostling to throw a flag.
They also missed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that should have been called on Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman. After his touchdown, he threw the ball into the stands, which would normally garner a flag. Instead there was an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty thrown on the Browns, and that gave the Patriots 15 more yards on the kickoff.
It doesn’t matter how many times you watch Patriots quarterback Tom Brady; he will still do something to wow you. After playing a terrible first half, he bounced back with 300 passing yards in the second half.
The Patriots' final two drives were beautiful. He made quick decisions and delivered the ball to the perfect locations. He found running back Shane Vereen and wide receiver Julian Edelman time and time again, and the Browns had no answer.
It is a treat to watch greatness unfold. No matter how you feel about Tom Brady, there is no denying that he is one of the greatest ever to play the position. He is the type of player people will talk about for generations after he is done in the NFL.
It is no secret that the rules in the NFL are designed to promote offense and keep star players on the field.
The problem is that creates too many inconsistent scenarios.
Superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski was carted off the field after a perfectly legal hit by safety T.J. Ward to his legs. The reason Ward had to go after his legs was because a shot to the chest or head would have drawn a flag for hitting a defenseless receiver.
By protecting the player’s head they exposed his knees. Let’s not pretend like this is the NFL having a big heart either. They are just protecting their pockets from further legal ramifications that could come with more concussions.
It is not just because the Browns looked good against the Patriots in Foxborough on Sunday. It has been brewing all season.
You can see the plethora of young, talented players on the Cleveland roster. They are one quarterback away from competing with the NFL’s big boys. When Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell were playing well at quarterback, the Browns were legitimate playoff contenders.
They need to find consistency and a future at that position. If they can find that in next year's draft and give the offense a face lift, the Browns should be playing meaningful football into December and beyond very soon.