Both the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns are making strides. What can we expect from these improving clubs on Thursday night?
Good teams in any sport find a way to win.
Bad teams find a way to lose. But even the modern-day version of the Cleveland Browns are finding new and creative ways to snatch ties for defeats from the jaws of victory.
In 2016, Hue Jackson was hired to be the team’s ninth different head coach for a franchise that re-entered the NFL in ’99. He now owns a 1-32-1 record with the club and the Browns are winless in their last 19 contests dating back to Week 17 of ’16. In the first two weeks of 2018, the club fashioned a 21-21 tie with the rival Pittsburgh Steelers and on Sunday, fell short at the Superdome to the defending NFC South champion New Orleans Saints, 21-18.
In Week 1, Jackson’s team rallied in the fourth quarter from a 14-point deficit to send the game into overtime. They finished the game with six takeaways. With a chance to win in the extra session, placekicker Zane Gonzalez lined up for a 43-yard field goal with 13 seconds to play. But the attempt was blocked and the winless streak continued.
This past Sunday, an improving Cleveland defense kept Drew Brees and company under wraps in the Big Easy. The team owned a 12-3 lead midway through the third quarter. It would have been a double-digit advantage but Gonzalez missed a PAT following a one-yard TD run by Carlos Hyde.
There would be three more missed kicks by the struggling specialist (1 PAT, 2 field goals), including a 52-yard attempt in the closing seconds that sailed wide right. And on Monday, Gonzalez would be released and the team signed Greg Joseph as its new kicker.
The Browns’ defense has arguably played well enough for the team to win either or perhaps both games. A unit that began to make strides a year ago looks even better this year so far. There have been seven sacks in two games. And a team that forced an NFL-low 13 turnovers in 2017 has eight takeaways in eight-plus quarters.
And now fast forward to the New York Jets, who in the span of seven days went from a 31-point victory at Detroit to a frustrating 20-12 home loss to the AFC East rival Miami Dolphins. In the Monday night victory in the Motor City, Todd Bowles’ team racked up five interceptions and scored touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams.
It was a different story on Sunday against the ‘Fins. Jets’ rookie quarterback Sam Darnold once again showed his resiliency, as was the case against the Lions when he rebounded after throwing a pick-six on his first pass attempt. He riddled Miami for 334 yards though the air and a score. But he also served up two more interceptions and fumbled once (not lost). Bowles’ team put the ball on the ground four times vs. the Dolphins, one of those a lost fumble by wide receiver Robby Anderson.
It is safe to say if the Jets play as sloppy as they did on Sunday at Cleveland, the Browns will be more than happy to take advantage of the Green and White’s generosity.
All told, it’s a short week for both the Jets and Browns but the latter will be playing at home on Thursday night. It should be quite the setting and a big challenge for Bowles, Darnold and a Jets’ team that looked very ordinary against the Dolphins on Sunday. Cleveland could be rocking for this prime time affair. But if it comes down to a kick late in the game, well…