CLEVELAND—It was a tale of two teams heading in opposite directions.
One heading to another playoff berth, while the other is headed for a top draft choice and possible changes at the top of the organization.
Despite the change at quarterback, some things remained the same as the Browns were humiliated by the Bengals 37-3 in front of an announced crowd of 64,775 fans at FirstEnergy Stadium.
The Browns were dominated in every phase of the game and the Browns have dropped their seventh game in a row to fall to 2-10 overall (1-4 AFC North).
Meanwhile, the Bengals improved to 10-2 and continue to battle for a top seed in the playoffs.
If the season ended today, the Browns would have the first pick in next spring’s NFL Draft. The Tennessee Titans won their third game Sunday and the San Diego Chargers were losing big to the Denver Broncos early, but already have three wins. The Dallas Cowboys have three wins and play Monday Night against the Washington Redskins.
Mike Pettine was asked about losing their fourth consecutive AFC North game after winning their first of the season against the Baltimore Ravens.
“That’s tough,” he said. “It’s frustrating. We talked about it throughout the week, we talked about it at the team meeting last night – you find out who you are. You find out who you are. It’s a healthy dose of adversity and guys respond to it in different ways. Some guys, you’d never know whether its 9-2 and 2-9 you’d never know the difference and those are the guys you take you hat off to. They come in every day, professional and they do their work. They come out; they play hard. Like I said, you find out, you find out real quick.
“From a coaching standpoint, again – I’ve said this before – when things aren’t going well and you have losses like this, the questions come up,”he said. “You just have to make sure as you question everything that you realize this is our core, this is what we’re doing well, these are areas we need to improve. If you have something wrong with your heart, you don’t want to operate on the brain. You want to make sure that you have a good understanding of what’s wrong and how to get it fixed.”
The Browns have four games remaining on the schedule and Pettine was asked what gave him hope the Browns could salvage the rest of their season.
“The character of the men in our room, the character of the coaching staff – more importantly, the character of the players, the leadership of this team,” he said. “We have some injuries – we’re going to have some young guys out there. We talk about embrace the opportunity, and it’s an opportunity to go out and compete in a game that we love. When things finally do turn the other way, this is what you remember. It’s easy, the good times, but it’s the bad ones that you remember because you know that that’s when we found out who we were going to build it on. That’s the message now for us is that we’re going to find out a lot about ourselves in these next couple of weeks.”
Joe Thomas said he won’t give up on the season and expects the same from the rest of the team.
“Nobody wants to lose,” Thomas said. “Nobody wants to be on a team that is losing or a 2-10 team. Part of being a professional is putting the scoreboard or the record behind you and playing the same way every day. That is my mindset, and that is what I am going to implore my teammates to do.”
Pettine was asked if he thought he and his coaching staff would be able to finish the season out.
“We haven’t had those discussions,” Pettine said. “Jimmy and I had good conversations. We talk every week. Frankly, there is a lot of football left to be played. We are evaluated every day, whether we are evaluating ourselves or whether it is coming from him. We are just going to fall back on what we know how to do. We are going to come in every day, prepare relentlessly like we do, we are going to coach our players hard and we will see what happens.”