Opening Day Doldrums

The latest occurred in simply the long list of opening day disappointments.

CLEVELAND — All you can do is shake you head and smile. It's not because you're happy. Your mind is boggled yet again: The Cleveland Browns just didn't lose the season opener like that?

Yes, they did.

What is sad is it is not the first time since 1999 you experienced that feeling.

You remember 1999 (Steelers 43, Browns 0). You remember 2002 (Chiefs 40, Browns 39). You remember 2007 (Steelers 34, Browns 7).

On a day in which sports seems so meaningless in the grand scheme of things, you continue to wonder why this team means so much to you. Well, there isn't enough space on this here Internet to expound upon the phenomenon of being a Browns fan.

The Browns led 17-13 with less than five minutes remaining in the game. The Bengals faced a third and 11 from the Browns' 41-yard-line. Cincinnati's previous seven possessions ended in a punt.

"I was getting ready to go back out there," Browns quarterback Colt McCoy said.

Browns fans were ready to celebrate an opening day victory.

Coming out of their huddle, Browns cornerback Joe Haden said they noticed the Bengals were going from their base to their nickel package. The Browns were in the midst of doing the same thing.

"The base calls aren't the same as the nickel calls," Haden said. "So we were waiting on the call and they were already lined up."

While the Browns were trying to get set, the Bengals snapped the ball. Backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski found rookie A.J. Green wide open for a 41-yard touchdown pass.

The Browns were stunned. The fans were stunned. OK, maybe a little stick to their stomachs, too.

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis didn't go into much detail on the play that proved to down the Browns.

"We got an opportunity to throw the ball down field," Lewis said. "Our guys did a nice job executing and we scored a touchdown."

Meanwhile, the Browns' first-year head coach was visibly frustrated in the postgame press conference. Shurmur didn't raise his voice, yet the grip he had on both sides of the podium took the place of gritted teeth. The poor podium was close to becoming sawdust.

"I'm going to fully evaluate what happened on that play," Shurmur said. "It was my understanding that they changed personnel offensively.

"What happened was not what we needed to happen."

Then, Shurmur's knuckles turned white as the podium begged for forgiveness.

A few minutes later, McCoy stood behind the same podium. More disappointment. It's not just the fans that are upset, ya know.

McCoy said he is enforcing the 24-hour rule. After a day, the team will turn its attention to learning from the mistakes made and next week's opponent, the Indianapolis Colts.

What about fans' attention? The Browns are now 1-12 in season openers since 1999. On Sunday morning, optimism reigned throughout Cleveland, Ohio and it reached a crescendo at halftime, with the Browns leading 14-13.

But the Bengals took those positive vibes back home with them, down I-71. Is it worth watching this for another 15 Sundays?

Don't forget about those positives. This could be the type of loss a young team uses as a rallying point. (Or, it could once again derail this franchise.)

There are 15 more games left that will answer that question. Plenty of football remains to be played. Plenty of highs. Plenty of lows.

As frustrating as this loss was for the players, coaches and fans, it did the job of distracting us from things like job stress, family issues and truly awful things like terrorist attacks.

I leave you with a positive outlook.

Remember how bleak things looked after the 2007 opener?

The Browns ended up with 10 wins that season.


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