For the fourth time this season, the Cleveland Browns found themselves unable to have their game decided in regulation and, thus, headed to an overtime period. For the third time, the Browns failed to pull a winning result out of that extra 10-minute period, pushing their record to 1-2-1 in overtime games this season.
Sunday’s game in Tampa Bay against the Bucs was a perfect encapsulation of the Browns season thus far. Cleveland put the first points on the board by way of a safety, but quickly fell behind 16-2 as the offense had a grand total of 54 yards in the first half, despite the defense forcing two turnovers and the aforementioned safety.
Like so many other times this season, the Browns reeled fans back in with some feisty second half play, ultimately tying the game at 23-23 late in the fourth quarter, while also making just enough mistakes to keep them from actually taking a lead despite the Bucs’ best efforts to hand them the game. For example, Baker Mayfield made some spectacular plays, including the game-tying touchdown pass, but he also fumbled the ball after picking up a first down on 4th and 2 inside the red zone, in which the ball bounced backwards and out of bounds a half yard shy of the sticks, and failed to get a 4th-and-goal from the 1.
All the while, the defense did its thing, until it appeared they got tired and had reached their breaking point, allowing the Bucs to march deep into Cleveland territory for a game-winning field goal attempt. The football gods were smiling on Cleveland ever-so-briefly, though, as Chandler Cantazaro waved his 40-yarder wide of the goalposts to send the game to overtime.
In overtime, the Browns defense held strong, and eventually helped the Browns flip the field with an interception in overtime in plus territory.
The offense, however, wouldn’t hold up its end of the bargain and after a heroic return to set up the game-tying touchdown in regulation, Jabrill Peppers coughed the ball up on a punt return near midfield.
The Browns defense would do their thing again, keeping the Bucs from getting past their own 42 thanks to a pair of sacks, but, because this is the Browns, Cantazaro’s redemption was assured as he lined up a 59-yard attempt to win the game.
The kick would’ve been good from 65 yards, as it sailed through the uprights and into the net. It started off looking like it might waver to the right, but curled in to leave Mayfield in stunned disbelief on the sidelines.
It was perfectly Browns. A miserable game in which one side of the ball tried valiantly to pick the other up in a Sisyphean effort to push the rock to the top of the hill. The offense tried it in Oakland, only to lose 45-42 in overtime. The defense has tried it thrice, resulting in a tie against Pittsburgh and losses now to the Saints (at the end of regulation) and to the Bucs in overtime.
Only one unit is allowed to be good in Cleveland at any given time. For years it was special teams, with great punting and kicking to keep the losses respectable. Now it’s either the offense or defense, no matter which shows up, the other will inevitably let it down. So goes life for the Browns, the team destined to find the same result for eternity, no matter how many different formulas they use to get there.