CLEVELAND - At the very least, Cleveland Browns fans don't have to go through one more of these for another seven or eight months.
The Browns closed the home portion of their schedule with one more humiliating loss Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium, but a 35-0 shutout to the Baltimore Ravens might just have been a bit more frustrating than the typical home nightmare.
Take all the frustration of seeing Art Modell's club win one last time on Cleveland soil, factor in the Ravens' victory putting them in the driver's seat to represent the AFC North Division in the playoffs, then add the fact that the Browns appear to have learned nothing from their inept attempts at stopping Jamal Lewis 15 weeks ago, and what do you end up with?
"It was a bitter, disappointing and sad loss," said Browns coach Butch Davis.
Bitter would describe a Browns defense that allowed Lewis to crack the 200-yard rushing mark for the second time this season. The Ravens star running back finished with 205 yards on 22 carries, including touchdown runs of 72 and 24 yards, giving him an even 500 yards in two games against the Browns this season.
Disappointing is a fitting description for a Browns offense that only managed one true scoring opportunity, which they squandered by missing a 37-yard field goal, and netted just six more yards as a team than Lewis.
And sad sums up a home record that was cemented at 2-6 for the year, dropping the Browns to 9-15 at Cleveland Browns Stadium in three seasons under Davis. Even more sad is the fact that the 35-0 score was the worst loss on the Browns home field since the 43-0 disaster against the Steelers that kicked off the 1999 expansion season.
"There was a lot of motivation to try to get better, but also to try to beat Baltimore," said Davis. "This game is about winning, and we didn't get the job done. It was the same issues that have been like a curse the entire season. Turnovers. A short field for the defense. Poor protection for the quarterback. Too many sacks, too many hurries, too many times getting hit and fumbling on sacks."
And then there were the missed tackles. The most noticeable of those failures was cornerback Roosevelt Williams, whose blind dive for Lewis at the line of scrimmage allowed the powerful 240-pound back to rumble 72 yards for a score with 6:14 remaining in the third quarter.
"Every big run by Lewis was our fault," said defensive tackle Gerard Warren. "If you don't bring good technique, then a good running back will break big runs like that. When the players don't play the way they should, you have days like this. It all comes down to good fundamentals and techniques."
Lewis' long run put the Ravens ahead 14-0. But even when they led by just seven points - after a 1-yard touchdown pass from Anthony Wright to tight end Terry Jones in the second quarter - the game already seemed hopelessly out of reach.
"It was 7-0, we're still in the game, fighting, and guys were spilling their guts out trying to keep it to a one-score game to give ourselves a chance to win the ballgame," said Davis. "Then you get the big run and it let the air out of the defense."
Actually, it took the air out of the entire Browns team and the Cleveland fans.
Lewis tacked on a 24-yard touchdown run with 11:55 remaining in the game, and the rout was on. It turned so ugly that the Browns and Ravens played those final 11 minutes and 55 seconds in front of a sea of empty orange seats after 60,000-some fans got up and walked out.
"It just sucks," said Browns guard Shaun O'Hara. "It sucks for the people who have to watch it, but it sucks more for the people who are in here and go through it every day. People buy tickets and it is hard to put $50 down, but it is harder to put your blood, guts and soul on the line each and every week. Nobody likes to play when they are down, but this is football. We are men and we have to fight until the last whistle."
The Browns offense continued to fight, but with injuries continuing to mount, there was little it could do. When right guard Paul Zukauskas left the game in the second quarter with an injury, it signaled the 16th change on the offensive line this season. And Tim Couch paid for it with five sacks, knock downs numbering in double digits, and at least one hurry that led to an ugly interception.
Safety Chad Williams turned that interception into a 52-yard touchdown that extended the Ravens lead to 28-0 with 10:25 still on the fourth-quarter clock. Adding to the embarrassment, Williams slipped and fell near the 40-yard line and still managed to get up and tread his way into the end zone.
Couch finished with 163 yards and the one interception on 17-of-33 passing in what may have been his final game in Cleveland Browns Stadium. He also lost two fumbles on sacks by Ravens rookie linebacker Terrell Suggs.
"During the week I thought that there may be a chance that this is my last time (in Cleveland)," said Couch. "If it is, I've enjoyed my time here, and it's been a great place to play football. You can only ask for a place where the fans come and sell out every weekend. It's a special place to play and hopefully I can keep it going here."
Dennis Northcutt, a free-agent-to-be who may also be nearing the end of his career with the Browns, caught seven passes for 67 yards. Rookie Lee Suggs, whose time in Cleveland is only just beginning, put in a bid for the Browns' starting running back position.
Suggs took over for Jamel White as Cleveland's feature back at halftime and finished with 68 yards on 20 carries. Afterwards, Davis admitted that without some serious adjustments in the upcoming offseason, whoever plays quarterback, running back or wide receiver next season has little chance for success.
"It is the No. 1 objective of this organization and me as a head football coach that we have to get better and give our running back and our quarterback a chance to make plays," said Davis.