Four errant passes in Cincinnati yielded agony a little over one week later, as Browns fans watched the Tennessee Titans play their way into the playoffs with 16-10 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night.
The Browns put themselves into a situation where they no longer controlled their own destiny when they lost to Cincinnati last week. This week, the Jeff Fisher's Titans squad did not repeat the same mistake. The Titans and Browns both finished 10-6 on the season, but Tennessee's better record against conference opponents provided them the tie-breaker edge to get into the playoffs. They will travel to Sand Diego next Sunday to face the Chargers.
The Browns, meanwhile, will close up shop this next week, and players and head coach Romeo Crennel will meet with the media tomorrow afternoon to wrap up the season.
For his part, the Browns head coach offered the following statement at the conclusion of tonight's game:
"We are disappointed that we didn't reach the playoffs, however, we had a good year. We've learned a lot, grown a lot and look forward to continuing to build on what we've accomplished this season."
Crennel's club accomplished a great deal, surprising themselves, their fans, and NFL observers. The 2007 season was a dramatic change from seasons past.
The Browns improved to 10-6 in Crennel's third season, and developed a group of star players around whom the team can build in future years. Excellent seasons from skill players like Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow, Josh Cribbs, and Jamal Lewis provided enough material for several highlight reels, and other offensive standouts like rookie Joe Thomas and surprising quarterback Derek Anderson generated touchdowns and excitement.
On defense, the Browns struggled to begin the season, but improved as a unit through the second half with players like Brandon McDonald and Shaun Smith emerging as the season developed. The Browns would up with a significant home-field advantage, winning seven of eight at home, with the only loss being the home opener against the Steelers.
The Cleveland Browns have a lot to be proud of, and Browns fans should have a lot of optimism as the team heads into what may be another very interesting off-season.