LANDOVER, Md. — Well, it was fun while it lasted.
The revitalized Browns who re-energized Northeast Ohio with a thrilling “Monday Night Football” win over the Giants were nowhere to be found Sunday outside the nation’s capital. In their place were the sloppy Browns from September. The ones that started 0-3 and crushed a town’s spirit.
Redskins 14, Browns 11.
The Browns (2-4) didn’t score until 2:43 remained in the third quarter. They converted 4 of 16 third downs. They totaled 236 yards. Derek Anderson threw 23 incompletions. Braylon Edwards dropped four passes.
They were even stopped after getting first-and-goal at the 1-yard line.
All that would be bad enough, but the Browns found a way to make it worse.
They clawed their way within three points after their only touchdown with 2:44 left, got the necessary defensive stop and quickly moved into Redskins (5-2) territory. But just as quickly, the offense stopped moving and Phil Dawson’s 54-yard field goal missed wide right with 25 seconds left.
Nothing like a little heartbreak to go with a poor performance.
“I kicked it pretty well,” said Dawson, who had plenty of distance but was about 4 yards right of the upright. “I wasn’t really concerned with the distance, but I had a sneaking suspicion that it might not go in because it came off my foot wrong.
“It’s distance and line and I only got half of it right.”
Goodbye, momentum. Goodbye, two-game winning streak. Hello, same old questions.
What’s wrong with the offense? Why is Anderson so inaccurate? Why can’t Edwards catch the ball? Where’s the team that won 10 games last year?
“This team reverted back to some things we did early in the year,” coach Romeo Crennel said. “We’re not consistent all the time and that’s why we end up losing some.”
Anderson is the obvious target for criticism for the one-hit-wonder offense. After his only good game of the year against the Giants, he went 14-for-37 Sunday for 136 yards, a touchdown, no interceptions and a 57.9 rating. He never got in a rhythm and never seemed in sync with Edwards or tight end Kellen Winslow, who returned to the lineup but remained angry at general manager Phil Savage for the way his “undisclosed illness” was handled the last two weeks.
“I know and everybody else in this locker room knows we’re better in the passing game than we showed,” Anderson said. “Obviously the way we played last week is how we can play.
“We’ve just got to do it week in and week out. You can see what happens when we don’t.”
Anderson was 1-for-8 for 6 yards in the first quarter and 5-for-19 for 40 yards through three quarters. Twice in the first quarter the Browns took possession in Washington territory and twice they failed to pick up a first down.
Dave Zastudil didn’t have to punt Monday night, but worked overtime with eight punts Sunday.
“We had some opportunities in the first half we didn’t take advantage of,” Anderson said. “To be 0-0 in the first half is pretty bad.”
Anderson didn’t get much help from Edwards, who had four catches for 58 yards to go with the drops. He also failed to see an all-out blitz by the Redskins in the final minute, so he kept running a long route when Anderson expected him to stop. The incompletion cost the Browns valuable yardage and a shot at a winning touchdown in regulation.
“It was my job to pick up that hot like I did against the Giants and I missed it,” Edwards said.
Edwards said early frustration from missed chances on offense — read: bad play by Anderson — affected his performance.
“It messed with my game,” he said. “It’s my job to block out frustration and play ball. Frustrations got to me today and I didn’t perform when they needed me to.”
The defense wasn’t good — it allowed Clinton Portis to rush for 175 yards and average 6.5 a carry — but it somehow limited the Redskins to two touchdowns. And when the Browns were stuffed on the goal line with 5:47 left in the game, cornerback Eric Wright stripped Portis and safety Brodney Pool recovered the fumble.
The offense finally did something, as Edwards caught a pretty throw down the seam for 20 yards, then Winslow made one of his two catches to get to the 1-yard line. On fourth down, Joshua Cribbs caught his first career touchdown.
The defense forced a three-and-out and the Browns took over at their 29 with 1:51 left. A touchdown would’ve put a pretty ending on an ugly day.
“There was no doubt in my mind we were going to score a touchdown,” Anderson said.
An 18-yard out to Donte Stallworth moved the ball into Washington territory, and a defensive holding penalty, a pass to Winslow and an Anderson sneak gave the Browns a first down at the 36 with about 1:10 left. But instead of spiking the ball, the coaches called a play — Anderson had to run to the sideline to get the call because the radio in his helmet went out for one of a half dozen times — while wasting precious seconds.
“I was doing what I’m told,” Anderson said.
The first-down pass intended for Winslow was tipped at the line, Edwards misread the defense on second down and Anderson’s deep in to Edwards inside the 15-yard line was a little low and wide. Three plays, three incompletions, and Dawson had to try a 54-yarder, which would’ve been a career long.
“We were just a little bit off by every position,” Edwards said. “We have to come out with the fire we did last week.”
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.