Cleveland 2 games from notching winless season
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y.
With two games left, coach Hue Jackson is considering any and all options to prevent the Cleveland Browns from matching the NFL’s single-season record for futility.
“Everything’s going to be on the table,” Jackson said after the Browns fell to 0-14 following a 33-13 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. “I think I owe these guys the best opportunity to win.”
And when Jackson says, everything, he’s not ruling yet another potential change in quarterback after Robert Griffin III was inconsistent in making his second consecutive start.
“Everybody,” Jackson said. “Everybody’s in play.”
Offense, defense, even special teams: Nothing went right once again for the bumbling Browns.
LeSean McCoy had a season-best 153 yards rushing and scored twice in helping the Bills (7-7) keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
The Browns have matched the second-worst start to a season, set by the 1976 Buccaneers and 1980 Saints. The 2008 Detroit Lions , meanwhile, are the NFL’s only team to go without a win in a 16-game season.
“This is my career. This is my reputation and I’m not going to back down from a challenge,” said Jackson, who is in his first season with the Browns. “This wasn’t my dream by any stretch of the imagination. But I’m not running from this.”
Cleveland has also lost 17 straight dating to last year, moving into a tie with the St. Louis Rams (2008-09) and Houston Oilers (1982-83) for the league’s sixth-longest skid. The Browns have gone a calendar year since their previous win, a 24-10 victory over San Francisco on Dec. 13, 2015.
The Browns haven’t had a lead in 17-plus quarters, dating to a 7-6 edge in the third quarter of a 28-7 loss at Baltimore on Nov. 10
The Bills are in jeopardy of extending the NFL’s longest active playoff drought to 17 seasons, but stayed mathematically in the hunt when Denver (8-6) lost to New England.
One consolation was backing up defensive tackle Marcell Dareus guaranteeing Buffalo wouldn’t be the first team to lose to Cleveland this season.
Coach Rex Ryan acknowledged being anxious.
“You’re nervous when you play and opponent like that because you definitely don’t want to be the team that gets beat by them,” Ryan said.
That still doesn’t clear up the uncertainty regarding questions of his job security beyond this season.
“I don’t know what my future holds,” Ryan said before looking ahead to Buffalo hosting Miami (9-5) on Saturday. “I just know that I’m going to get this team ready to play.”
The game against Cleveland was played before a sparse crowd, befitting of two enduring lengthy stretches of futility.
The Browns have enjoyed just one winning season since last making the playoffs in 2002.
McCoy broke the game open by scoring on 3- and 8-yard runs on consecutive possessions spanning the third and fourth quarters. His first came immediately after Griffin scored on an 18-yard run to cut Buffalo’s lead to 17-10 on Cleveland’s opening drive of the second half.
“We talked about going out there and dominating,” McCoy said. “It’s a game we should win. Well, let’s play like it.”
Mike Gillislee also scored on a 3-yard run to help Buffalo set a franchise record of scoring 27 TDs rushing this season. That’s one more than the mark set in 1975.
Buffalo quarterback Tyrod Taylor went 17 of 24 for 174 yards and a 19-yard touchdown pass to Charles Clay.
Griffin finished 17 of 28 for 196 yards and was sacked five times.
The Browns’ opening drive went nowhere. Cleveland netted minus-8 yards offense, including an offensive holding penalty against Jonathan Cooper. Griffin couldn’t even complete an easy pass over the middle to a wide-open Duke Johnson Jr. on third down.
If that wasn’t enough, Britton Colquitt’s punt hit teammate Briean Boddy-Calhoun in the back. Boddy-Calhoun then ran into Brandon Tate, even though the Bills returner had signaled a fair catch, leading to a 15-yard penalty against the Browns rookie.
Griffin scored on a nifty 18-yard run in which he was flushed from the pocket, outraced linebacker Jerry Hughes and had enough momentum to dive across the goal line after being hit by linebacker Preston Brown.
Taylor showed off his scrambling abilities on the next drive. Avoiding a sack, he raced along the right sideline and tip-toed his way for a 28-yard gain to set up McCoy’s 3-yard touchdown run.
Bills center Eric Wood took issue with anyone considering the team undergoing a top-to-bottom overhaul as the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres recently did to stockpile high draft picks.
“This isn’t like hockey were you scrap your franchise for a guy that you know is coming like an Eichel or McDavid,” Wood told The Associated Press, referring to Buffalo’s Jack Eichel and Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, the top two picks in the 2015 draft.
“This is football. You can get a No. 1 draft pick, and the best guy on the board is a tackle that year, and a tackle doesn’t change your franchise.”
Terry and Kim Pegula own both the Bills and Sabres.