CLEVELAND – After one of the most tumultuous collapses in Browns history, Myles Garrett wanted to have it both ways.
Needing just two sacks to set the Browns’ career record, the two-time All-Pro Garrett said Friday he expects fans at FirstEnergy Stadium to chant his name like they did a year ago if he has another memorable performance .
But after Sunday’s 31-30 home loss to the New York Jets in which the Browns blew a 13-point lead with 1:55 left, Garrett was disappointed that some in the crowd booed as they fled.
When asked if it made such a fall out in front of an energetic crowd for the home opener worse, Garrett said, “The biggest disappointment was the surge at the end. It wasn’t the best ending we want. Of course, we want to win. Of course, we want to play the game out and it ends 30-17 and we get a pick or a sack to end the game, but it doesn’t always go that way.
“These guys are still putting our asses on the line and playing as hard as they can, and they should be respected for that. There are two games. We have plenty of other games to play, especially this next one coming up in front of the home crowd. We have plenty of time to correct what we are doing, so we don’t want to see this crowd, this stadium giving up on us this early. We want to see them completely behind us.
“It was disappointing for everyone. It’s disappointing for us as a team that we knew they had our foot on their throat and we didn’t finish them off. That’s totally on us. We learn from this and correct it and come back strong.”
Garrett is right that it is too early to give up on the Browns, especially with their 1-1 record matched by the Steelers and Ravens and the defending AFC champion Bengals who are 0-2. The Steelers visit Thursday for a nationally televised game.
But in this case, the boos were deserved.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, NFL teams have won the last 2,229 consecutive games while leading by at least 13 points in the final two minutes. The Browns were the last team to lead in Week 9 of the 2001 season against the Chicago Bears.
That season was coached by Butch Davis, the best team in the expansion era before the Browns’ Kevin Stefanski was named NFL Coach of the Year in 2020. Behind quarterback Tim Couch and defensive end Courtney Brown’s three sacks and a fumble return by for a touchdown, the Browns led 21-7. But Bears quarterback Shane Matthews threw two touchdown passes in the final 28 seconds and the Bears won 27-21 in overtime on a 16-yard interception return by Mike Brown.
That’s part of the reason the fans deserved a boo. They have been paying to watch the tube or been glued to the tube for years for such mind-boggling losses.
The team’s shocking MO in the first two games also gave them the right to express their anger.
In the season-ending 26-24 win at Carolina, when the Browns led 20-7 at halftime, the defense gave up 125 yards on two plays – a 75-yard touchdown reception by receiver Robbie Anderson and a 50-yard catch by tight end Ian. Thomas. Both came on blown envelopes.
That continued for the second week in a row. Corey Davis caught a 66-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to cut the Jets’ deficit to 30-24 with 1:22 left. Flacco threw the game-winning 15-yard touchdown pass to former Ohio State wide receiver Garrett Wilson with 22 seconds left.
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Flacco, 37, showed how well he knows the Browns from his 11 seasons with the Baltimore Ravens when he discussed the reaction to Davis’ touchdown.
“When you see him go to the sideline and turn upfield, you think he’s on top of the corner and the ball is going. Then, there’s nobody anywhere near him,” Flacco said of Davis. “It was a very strange feeling because of how quiet it was. You almost felt like there was a penalty or something. Obviously we’re in Cleveland, so it makes sense. But it was the that’s a feeling I’ve never felt before.”
Fans listened to Browns defensive players and coordinator Joe Woods promise days that they would be able to solve the problems, and it didn’t happen.
“Can’t explain. All we have to do is talk. Communication is being sent and received,” Browns free safety John Johnson III said. “So people are sending, but some guys aren’t getting, and that’s the issue.”
For a defense that returned almost intact, much more was expected.
The same is true for special teams. Coordinator Mike Priefer’s units ranked 30th in the league in 2021 in the annual rankings compiled by longtime NFL writer Rick Gosselin, so it looked like things would improve. The faithful remain unfulfilled.
Rookie kicker Cade York became a cult hero even before his 58-yard game-winner at Carolina. Against the Jets, he missed a costly extra point. The Browns failed to recover an onside kick with 1:22 left as receiver Amari Cooper was laid back and waited for the ball to come to him instead of blocking it out of bounds.
The Jets also pulled a fake punt on their second set.
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Stefanski blamed Nick Chubb for not going down the linebacker instead of scoring on a 12-yard run with 1:55 left. The Jets were out of time, so if Chubb had picked up the first down at the 1, the Browns could have been down three times and run out the clock.
“It’s up to me to convey that to the huddle,” Stefanski said. “We’ve done that before.”
That came on November 15, 2020, in a 10-7 home win over the Houston Texans and featured the same principals. Chubb broke loose for 59 yards down the left sideline, running out of bounds at the 1-yard line with 56 seconds left. Baker Mayfield took a knee twice to preserve the win.
“Our code word for that is ‘no mass’ — we were told that before third down,” Stefanski said that day. “You’re thinking of getting the first one and going down.”
Add all of that and the Browns have had a lot of success from coaches and players. Johnson could see why fans booed on the way out.
“We have some of the most loyal fans. I don’t blame them,” Johnson said. “I didn’t feel that way about it. It is unacceptable.
“We go out there, they pay their hard earned money to see us at least put on a good show. Come on, we’ve got to win that one. Especially a game like that, we have to win that one.”
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Garrett made valid points. There is a long way to go before the AFC North is decided. But the 67,431 who packed FirstEnergy Stadium don’t need Garrett to tell them when to laugh and when to boo.
He has only been here for five plus years and has played in 70 games. Fans’ expectations – and their anger – have been rising for years. It’s a wonder the applause wasn’t louder.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.
This article originally appeared on the Akron Beacon Journal: Myles Garrett disappointed by booing Cleveland Browns fans