SEATTLE - There is no more daydreaming of a second-half run to the playoffs.
"It's hard to believe that we are out of the race," said cornerback Daylon McCutcheon.
But the simple fact is, by falling three games behind the AFC North Division leaders with four to play has, the Browns hopes of returning to the playoffs are essentially over.
The embarrassment of Sunday's performance in Seattle forced an even more unsettling realization. "We've taken a step back," said quarterback Tim Couch.
Guard Shaun O'Hara took it one step forward.
"We stunk," he admitted.
It's hard to argue.
The Browns couldn't even keep Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander for gashing them for a big run when they had 12 men on the field on defense, all participating in a second-quarter play. Alexander gashed the Browns defense all day long - for 7 yards when the Browns were flagged for having too many men on the field, and ultimately for 127 yards on 27 carries on the afternoon.
Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and receivers Koren Robinson and Darrell Jackson also took turns making the Browns look silly. Hasselbeck threw for 328 yards, including 122 on six passes to Robinson and 102 on eight throws to Jackson, giving the Seahawks their first game with a 300-yard passer, a 100-yard rusher and two 100-yard receivers in the franchise's 28-year history.
Those numbers reminded several Browns of the worst days of their short five-year expansion history.
"It's real discouraging right now," said McCutcheon, who was forced to play part-time duty because of a sprained right ankle suffered during practice earlier in the week. "I hate losing period, and this is worse than any ass-whipping. I mean, we want to go out there and be competitive and win football games, but this was an ugly game."
McCutcheon is one of the few players who remember the Browns 1999 and 2000 seasons under former coach Chris Palmer, and to him the recent struggles "are almost worse because we are a way better team than those teams my first and second year. We have way more talent on this team. We are way better than how we played today."
The humiliation started on the game's opening drive when the Browns defense failed to get off the field on 3rd-and-17. Hasselbeck dumped a short screen pass to fullback Mack Strong, who found a wide-open sideline and rumbled 32 yards for an easy first down. Five plays later, the Seahawks owned a 7-0 lead on a 2-yard touchdown pass from Hasselbeck to tight end Itula Milli.
Third-down failures haunted the Browns all day long. When McCutcheon was told the Seahawks converted a whopping 10-of-15 third downs, he could only shake his head in amazement.
"That's something we really stressed in the secondary," said McCutcheon. "You have to be able to stop drives."
The Browns offense, meanwhile, misfired on their first seven third-down attempts, finally moving the chains on the final play of the third quarter when Kelly Holcomb found Andre Davis for a 16 yard pass on 3rd-and-7. For the game, the Browns were just 2-of-10 on third down.
"That is a very key statistic in any game, your third-down conversions and how you get off the field on third down," said Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren. "When we do that on both sides of the ball, usually good things happen."
By halftime, the Seahawks had rolled to 17-0 lead, adding a 36-yard second-quarter field goal by Josh Brown and the first of Hasselbeck's two touchdown passes to Jackson - a 3-yarder late in the second quarter.
The lead ballooned to 34-0 after Hassellbeck and Jackson hooked up for a 26-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter and Alexander capped his day with a 3-yard scoring run midway through the fourth quarter.
"We got beat by a good football team today," said Browns coach Butch Davis. "We didn't play very well at times."
Holcomb completed 22-of-31 passes for an inconsequential 186 yards as the Browns tried to dink-and-dunk the ball down the field. He also threw an ugly fourth-quarter interception to Seahawks cornerback Ken Lucas on a rare trip deep into Seattle territory, wildly attempting to avoid a sack and find wide reciever Andre Davis near the goal line.
"We just couldn't get anything going," said Holcomb. "If you don't make third downs, you don't keep drives going, that gives them opportunities, and that's what we gave them."
Davis tried to jump-start the Browns offense at the start of the second half by inserting Tim Couch at quarterback, but the former No. 1 pick lasted only five plays before injuring his left knee. Couch, who completed just one pass for 3 yards in his three attempts, said he sprained his left medial collateral ligament.
"Hopefully that's all it is and I can get back on the field soon," said Couch.
Davis admitted it may not matter who plays quarterback for the Browns at this point. With a makeshift offensive line that was without injured center Jeff Faine and right guard Paul Zukauskas, who returned home to Massachusetts to be with his sick mother, neither Couch or Holcomb have much chance at success.
"I think both of these guys are struggling right now," said Davis. "There struggling is a byproduct of how tough it is for our offense to have any kind of rhythm and consistency. I think both of these guys are victimized by the pressure and victimized by all of the things that happen when you struggle."
"When he came off the ball we were locked up and he grabbed the mask and punched up under the chin," said Tobeck. "He landed a pretty good blow."
Without Warren and Couch, the Browns played most of the second half without four of their five first-round picks since the 1999 expansion season. This year's first-rounder, Faine, is out for the year with an ankle injury. Last year's first-round pick, running back William Green, served the final game of his four-game suspension Sunday after being arrested for driving under the influence and marijuana possession.
Warren admitted, he hurt his team.
"Big Money flew off the handle," said Warren. "I flew off the handle, and I can't do that. It was detrimental to me and to this team, and more importantly to my teammates. I need to be on the field at all times, trying to help my team."